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Friday, Dec 09, 2022

Chandigarh airport renamed after Bhagat Singh: End of a long dispute between Punjab, Haryana

Besides getting the airport named after Bhagat Singh, Punjab also wanted it to be called an international airport at Mohali, while Haryana wanted Panchkula to be suffixed with the name of the airport.

The Chandigarh International Airport was renamed as Shaheed Bhagat Singh Airport on Wednesday, on the occasion of the freedom fighter's birth anniversary. (Express photo by Jasbir Malhi)

With the Chandigarh international airport officially named after freedom fighter Bhagat Singh on his birth anniversary on Wednesday (September 28), the controversy between Punjab and Haryana over their claims on the airport has finally ended, after decade-long efforts by successive governments.

When was the demand first raised 

It was in 2007, when the SAD-BJP government ruled Punjab, and the then Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Badal urged the Centre to build an international airport in Mohali. The Centre finally agreed and decided that the then existing infrastructure of the civil-cum-defence airport at Chandigarh would be integrated into the Mohali international airport. An agreement was later signed between the Airport Authority of India (AAI) and Punjab.

What was the deal?

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It was agreed that land would be acquired for setting up the Mohali International airport as a joint venture between the Airport Authority of India (AAI) and the Greater Mohali Area Development Authority (GMADA). It was estimated that the government would acquire 307 acres for the project in Mohali, spending Rs 300-500 crore.

The state government was asked to invest in the land and the AAI had to build infrastructure. The joint venture between Punjab and AAI had 49:51 per cent sharing respectively.

How did Haryana stake its claim on the airport?

On January 5, 2008 when the then Union civil aviation minister Praful Patel was present at the function to lay the foundation stone of the new airport, the then Chief minister of Haryana, Bhupender Hooda, demanded a stake in the airport at the eleventh hour.

Haryana argued that since the existing Chandigarh Airport was being upgraded, Haryana had a claim on Chandigarh, the state’s joint capital with Punjab. Punjab, on the other hand, said the airport was being expanded on Mohali land.

Former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh’s intervention was sought and Haryana was then allowed to contribute 24.5 per cent of the share, (half of Punjab’s 49 per cent) or approximately Rs 250 crore, which Punjab accepted.

How has the confrontation ended now?

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Besides getting the airport named after Bhagat Singh, Punjab also wanted it to be called an international airport at Mohali, while Haryana wanted Panchkula to be suffixed with the name of the airport. However, on Wednesday, the name was changed to Shaheed-e-Azam Bhagat Singh International Airport, Chandigarh.

A few days prior, Punjab and Haryana had announced that there was a consensus between the two states over the issue. Earlier, Haryana had stated that the airport should only be named after Chandigarh, as it is the joint capital of both the states. Former Haryana CM Bhupender Hooda had agreed with Punjab to name the airport after Bhagat Singh, but after the BJP led by ML Khattar took over the reins of Haryana, he put forth his view in 2015 that the airport should be named after RSS ideologue Mangel Sen.

How has the Haryana government responded to the development?

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The Punjab Vidhan Sabha had earlier passed a resolution that the airport should be named after Bhagat Singh. While Haryana agreed to this, it did not want it to be called the Mohali airport, despite Punjab having given land in Mohali for setting up the airport.

Ever since Haryana’s deputy chief minister Dushyant Chautala, who also holds the state’s civil aviation department, met Punjab chief minister Bhagwant Singh Mann in August, Dushyant has maintained that both the states have agreed to include “Panchkula” in the new name.

On September 25, the day Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the Chandigarh airport’s change of name in his Mann Ki Baat programme, Haryana CM Khattar and Dushyant both expressed gratitude towards Modi. While Khattar did not say ‘Panchkula’ would figure in the new name, Dushyant mentioned it twice.

In his statement, Dushyant said, “The Prime Minister in the 93rd episode of his “Mann Ki Baat” programme today announced that Chandigarh Airport will be named as ‘Shaheed Bhagat Singh International Airport, Chandigarh-Mohali-Panchkula’”.

The press release issued by the Hayrana government also said, “Sh. Dushyant Chautala said that ‘Shaheed Bhagat Singh International Airport, Chandigarh-Mohali-Panchkula’ will open new doors of progress in the entire North region.”

First published on: 28-09-2022 at 08:27:46 pm
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