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An infrastructure project that has seen ups and downs such as no other at the behest of changing governments in the state and Centre over the past 15 years is on the verge of yet another attempted resurrection.
Proposed, shelved and revived several times in the past decade — the Jewar International Airport project in Gautam Budh Nagar — which was first conceived during the regime of Rajnath Singh as chief minister in 2001 and given shape in 2002 by the next CM Mayawati, may finally materialise with the state and Centre (both with BJP in power) expressing willingness to pursue it together for the first time.
Four days after Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath expressed an interest in reviving the project during a review meeting of the Uttar Pradesh Infrastructure and Industrial Development Department, the state government sent a fresh reminder to Union Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju, promising full cooperation.
Moreover, state Industrial Development Minister Satish Mahana told The Indian Express on Monday that considering the project’s importance for the NCR region, he would personally meet Raju to get the ball rolling.
“The proposal is already with the Union civil aviation ministry and after the review meeting last week, a fresh reminder has been sent by the Uttar Pradesh government to the ministry regarding the Jewar International Airport project,” Mahana told The Indian Express.
The project has had a turbulent past. After being initially conceived by Rajnath, it was Mayawati who proposed it formally. Then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and the BJP government at the Centre gave the project a green signal. However, in 2003, the Samajwadi Party, led by Mulayam Singh Yadav, came to power in the state, and shelved it along with the ‘Taj Expressway’ project, which was later renamed ‘Yamuna Expressway’.
In 2007, the Mayawati-led BSP government revived the Jewar project after coming to power. It was proposed alongwith the Yamuna Expressway and named the ‘Taj International Aviation Hub’. The BSP government started pursuing it with UPA, which was in power at the Centre. Mayawati even asked BSP MPs to meet then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in 2010 and then Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel to pursue the case. The PM had even formed a group of ministers to look into aspects of the project, but the initiative remained inconclusive.
The hurdle was that it would fall within a 150 km radius of the Indira Gandhi International Airport, thus contradicting an agreement signed with GMR-led consortium Delhi International Airport Private Limited. In 2011, RLD Chief Ajit Singh became civil aviation minister and according to sources, he wanted the international airport to be constructed in his constituency Meerut. While the BSP government continued to push for Jewar, citing examples of relaxed norms in other states, its tussle with the Centre continued.
In 2012, the new Akhilesh-led SP government came up with a fresh proposal for a ‘Taj International Airport’ in Agra instead. However, when the defence ministry opposed the move as the air force had an airbase in Kheria area of Agra, the state tweaked its proposal and wrote to the Centre proposing that the location be shifted to Firozabad or Akhilesh’s village Saifai. In 2014, when the NDA came to power at the Centre, then Union Minister of State for Civil Aviation Mahesh Sharma again spoke about the significance of an international airport project in Jewar, which fell in his parliamentary constituency Gautam Budh Nagar. “I am open to suggestions but I am ready to face all hurdles in the way of establishing an airport in Jewar,” he had said at the time.
It was during the last phase of his government that Akhilesh relented and expressed his willingness for two international airports, one in Jewar and the other in Agra. This too ended in a stalemate as both the Centre and state government failed to see eye to eye, instead blaming each other for a lackadaisical attitude towards the project.
Adityanath called for the meeting with the infrastructure department on April 6, just a fortnight after taking charge as CM, and directed the officers to consider the international airport project in Jewar. For the state government, it is now a waiting game. “The reminder has been sent to the Union government and now we are awaiting their response. We also hope to boost investment and industrial development in the region, which is already a business and IT hub at present,” Mahana told The Indian Express.