Devotees upset with trust over airport donation | mumbai | Hindustan Times
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Devotees upset with trust over airport donation

On Friday, Chief Minister Ashok Chavan and Union Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel will be laying the foundation stone of the airport in the temple town of Shirdi.

mumbai Updated: Aug 25, 2010 01:13 IST
Dharmendra Jore

On Friday, Chief Minister Ashok Chavan and Union Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel will be laying the foundation stone of the airport in the temple town of Shirdi. The airport, expected to be operational by end of 2011, will be equipped for international flights as well.

But the Shirdi Sai Baba Temple Trust’s decision to give Rs 100 crore to the state government for the airport has not just angered devotees, it has created a rift within Ahmednagar’s Vikhe-Patil family, which has been in charge of the trust for several decades.

Trustee and state Transport Minister Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil, who approves of the trust’s move, said: “The trust took a decision two years ago in the interest of devotees. The airport will offer faster connectivity.”

But his father, former Member of Parliament Balasaheb Vikhe-Patil, told Hindustan Times on Tuesday that the trust should not give the amount as the government has paid for the land that it acquired for the airport. “Local people and devotees don’t want this to happen. We all want the Centre and state governments to take care of the airport project,” he said.

Balasaheb said the airport would help corporate fliers who frequent the industrial estates that are to be developed in Ahmednagar and Nashik districts. Pramod Kadve, a devotee from Mumbai, said Rs 100 crore could be used to extend more facilities to the poor. “An airport will benefit the rich. The trust should not splurge on providing five-star facilities to the rich.”

Trust chairman Jayant Sasane said trust members will meet to review the situation. “The minister [Radhakrishna] will take a final call.” The Maharashtra Airport Development Corporation (MADC) is the nodal agency for the project.