Almost ten years after the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs cleared construction of a greenfield airport at Pakyong in Sikkim, Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated Sikkim’s first airport on Monday and said that emphasis was being given to enhance infrastructural connectivity in the North Eastern region at a rapid rate.
Prior to the launch of Pakyong airport — which is 60 km off the Indo-China border — Sikkim was the only state in the country without an airport. This is Airports Authority of India’s (AAI) first greenfield airport in the country.
“After Independence the country had only 65 airports till 2014. But in the last four years we have built 35 airports. Earlier the average was one airport every year, now the average is nine airports per year,” Modi said, adding that all sections of people would be able to use the airport as the fares would be less than Rs 2,500 under the UDAN scheme. “We are committed to make the Northeast an engine for India’s growth story. For the first time since Independence, stress has been given on increasing connectivity by both air and rail, providing electricity in remote areas of the Northeast and building infrastructure,” he said.
The website of AAI, which will operate the Pakyong airport, lists 137 airports, excluding the newest one. However, several of these airports are non-functional. The project to establish airport at Pakyong was cleared by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs in October 2008 but its launch has come at a time when the NDA government is putting its weight behind the regional connectivity scheme (RCS).
The Pakyong airport will have five check-in counters and will handle 5 lakh passengers per annum. The airport has been constructed at a cost of Rs 553 crore. SpiceJet will launch the first commercial flight to Pakyong from Kolkata on October 4. —With PTI