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Thanjavur Airport plan yet to take off

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Air travellers in delta districts may have to wait longer for enjoying the benefit of the UDAN Regional Connectivity Scheme of the Central Government.

At the start of 2018, Thanjavur was identified along with Vellore in Tamil Nadu under phase II of UDAN for operation of domestic flights with ATR aircraft this year.

Spicejet was awarded the Thanjavur-Chennai route for operating 70 to 80 seater planes. But, construction of the terminal building is yet to be taken up pending completion of process of exchange of land between Airports Authority of India and Indian Air Force that has been using the air strip in Thanjavur.

Business and industry sector in delta districts apprehend that the Thanjavur will be left out of UDAN II under which 43 airports and helipads in the country were proposed to be connected.

The Ministry of Civil Aviation had, earlier this year, approached the Indian Air Force for exchange of land needed at the air strip for commercial operations. AAI plans to build a small terminal for passenger operations and create other basic facilities.

But, things have not moved on expected lines. Land transfer may take more time since it is a matter involving defence land, said K. Gunasekaran, Airport Director, Tiruchi International Airport.

S. Vaithiyanathan, Chairman, Builders Association of India, Thanjavur Centre, said air connectivity has been a long-felt need for people of Thanjavur and nearby districts. In the absence of an airport, travelling to other parts of the country becomes a time-consuming affair. Only a small section of businessmen and industrialists from delta districts travel to Tiruchi to board flights. As things stand, train is the most preferred mode of travel to Chennai since the bus route till Vikravandi via Kumbakonam is in poor shape, he said.

With agricultural sector witnessing a slump over the years, the economy could be revived only through industrial activities for which air connectivity is vital, Sabapathy, president of Thanjavur District Small and Tiny Industries Association, said.

Leading educational institutions in Thanjavur and nearby areas are also looking forward to early operation of flights from Thanjavur for better national-level visibility.

The general view prevailing among the public is that Members of Parliamentary constituencies in delta districts must lobby harder with the Union Ministries of Civil Aviation and Defence for an early outcome, considering Thanjavur’s importance as a vibrant hub for religious tourism, culture, education, silk weaving and craft materials.

Source: The Hindu

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