New Delhi: Punjab, Kerala and some other states on Tuesday strongly opposed the government's draft Civil Aviation Policy that talks of creating only six international hubs in the country.
Opposing the Civil Aviation Ministry's proposal to limit international hubs to only six metros, Punjab Revenue Minister Bikram Singh Majithia said such a policy would work against the interests of different states.
"If implemented the policy will work against the interests of people of various regions as they will have to travel to other international hubs for onward journeys," he said.
Majithia urged Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju to allow airlines to choose different international airports from across the country as their hub instead of limiting the choice to six metro airports to ensure balanced regional economic development and called for making Amritsar as one of the hubs in Punjab.
He said keeping in view the religious importance and huge flow of pilgrims and tourists to Sri Harmandir Sahib, Sri Guru Ramdas International Airport at Amritsar be made international hub with a special focus on creating a cargo hub as it is the old silk route to explore the Middle East trade potential.
Punjab also urged the Centre to start international flights from Chandigarh soon.
Kerala government officials expressed hope that the draft policy is not implemented. Opposing the proposal, they said the international arrival and departure from three airports in the state -- Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi and Kozhikode --are higher than the Chennai airport.
Representing Punjab at a meeting held here to discuss the draft civil aviation policy, Majithia made a forceful argument against the proposal while pointing out that due to the "discriminatory attitude" of the previous Congress-led UPA government, Punjab has suffered a lot on Civil Aviation front as Amritsar-London-Birmingham-Toronto flight was discontinued and NRI Punjabis have to now first travel to Delhi to take flight.
He said that Amritsar was one of the most visited first seven places throughout the world as people from every nook and corner of the world want to pay their obeisance at this sanctum sanctorum but due to non-availability of direct flights they were unable to visit it.
He also underlined the need of developing Amritsar and Chandigarh international airports as international hubs due to more than 25 per cent passengers belonging to Punjab taking flights or landing in New Delhi.
He said that the Chandigarh Airport has touched the figure of 10 lakh passengers per year and growing at the rate of 20 per cent annually.
Making out a case for starting direct international flights from the Chandigarh airport by making it 24-hour operational from the present eight-hour duration, the Punjab minister said if this was done, people would be saved from travelling to Delhi for their onward journey.
He also asked the Union Civil Aviation Ministry to take up the matter of renaming the new Chandigarh International Terminal as "Shaheed-E-Azam Sardar Bhagat Singh International Airport, Mohali".
He also asked for setting up of a MRO (maintenance, repair and overhaul) facility at the Chandigarh international airport to create a north Indian hub for the maintenance of aircraft.