Idrees Ahmad, an employee with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in New Delhi, is distressed like many living outside Kashmir at the decision of the Indian Air Force decision to close down the Srinagar airport for air traffic to carry out repair work.
“I wanted to celebrate my first Eid with my newborn baby at home. On logging in to websites for tickets, it shows no availability. We get off far a very few days in office. This is sad,” said Ahmad, a frequent flyer, who lives in Srinagar.
The decision by the IAF has put many a plans on hold for the valleyites. From cancellation of surgeries outside the valley to delaying of business meeting to students taking up exams.
The Srinagar airport, which has a status of international airport, is manned by the IAF and its runway comes under its purview. The IAF, which has leased land from its own airstrip to the Airport Authority of India (AAI) for civil aviation, has decided to carry out pending repair work on the runway from September 1 to 12. The AAI does not own the runway strip but hires services provided by the IAF and only owns terminal building. The airstrip is around 12,000 square feet.
“The IAF was planning to repair the runway in April but was cancelled after Chief Minister Omar Abdullah intervened citing tourist rush to Kashmir. Now, the IAF has informed us about taking up the work,” a senior Srinagar Airport Authority official told Hindustan Times.
Air traffic at the Srinagar airport operates from 9 am to 3 pm and many Airports Authority of India (AAI) officials suggest the IAF can work in the afternoons.
“We have the option of another airport at Awantipora. If that is not agreed upon by the AAI then I will take up the issue with the Civil Aviation ministry,” said Chief Minister Omar Abdullah.
The Awantipora runway strip is 30 km from the Srinagar airport and is overseen by the IAF.
If the Srinagar airport closes down for 12 days, it will add to the woes of those trading in tourism and the airliners, which, at present, are bearing the brunt of the current civil unrest in Kashmir.