Thieves have rendered the international airport at Gaya, the famous Buddhist pilgrimage centre in Bihar, non-conducive for night landing of aircraft.
The night landing apparatus is in place at the airport, but the solar power obstruction lights atop surrounding hills have been stolen. The aviation regulator, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, does not allow night landing unless solar power obstruction lights (markers) atop hills and tall structures are functional.
Now, there are no solar power obstruction lights on four of the five hills surrounding the airport. Gaya Airport director Samar Kumar Biswas said night landing was done till mid-2009, but temporarily withdrawn after the thefts. Biswas said, "We will reinstall the lights."
The pinch of not having night landing facility was felt on Monday after a delayed late afternoon Delhi-Gaya-Varanasi-Delhi flight - introduced from October 1 - had to be cancelled in the national capital, inconveniencing 12 incoming and 19 outgoing passengers.
Biswas said there had been several instances of thefts and lights were also stolen after being reinstalled. "We have lodged FIRs with the police - the last being in 2009-10 - but to no avail."
District magistrate Bandana Preyashi said the administration had assured the Airports Authority of India officials protection if they reinstalled the lights. Gaya district is one of Maoist hotbeds in the state.
Preyashi said, "The airport falls in Bodh Gaya which is not Naxal-affected. So, this is not a Naxal-related problem."
Gaya senior superintendent of police Binay Kumar said, "I joined the district eight months back and have never heard the airport officials complain about their lights having been stolen."
As of now, Mihin Lanka, Thai Air, Air India and Myanmar Airways operate international flights to Gaya.