The number of airports in India will go up from the present 85 to about 400 in the next 10 years, Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel said in Panaji on Saturday.
It was a busy day for Patel, who visited three cities to inaugurate two new air terminals and lay the foundation stone of a third.
Patel opened new integrated terminals at Vishakhapatnam (Andhra Pradesh) and Tiruchirapalli (Tamil Nadu) airports and later flew in to Goa to lay the foundation stone for the new integrated terminal at Goa airport.
On Friday, he visited five cities - Mumbai, Indore, Bhopal, Raipur and Ranchi - to start the modernisation projects at their airports.
All these airports are to get new integrated terminal buildings as part of the government's ambitious project to upgrade 35 non-metro airports at a cost of Rs 105 billion (Rs 10,500 crore).
Speaking at the foundation-stone laying ceremony at Chicalim in south Goa, Patel said the civil aviation sector would attract investments worth Rs 500 billion (Rs 50,000 crore) in the next 10 years and the number of airports will go up from 85 to 400 during this period.
He added that the civil aviation sector would alter India's employment landscape within a decade. "The civil aviation industry is the future for Indian youth."
"Now we have 500 passenger aeroplanes and nearly 85 operational airports," which is a welcome sign compared to 110 aircraft and 45 airports in 2004, Patel said.
"We need to take the airports to the remotest regions so that our farmers can look at exporting agricultural and farm-related products to the world. This time will come," he added.
Patel also said the policy of greenfield airports which was pursued by his government was the way for the future. "The time of one airport for a region is gone. Now we have to look at a situation where one airport will have to compete with another for business," he said.