Chandigarh airport is now Shaheed Bhagat Singh International Airport, Chandigarh
Union ministers Nirmala Sitharaman and Gen VK Singh (retd) join Punjab and Haryana governors Banwarilal Purohit and Bandaru Dattatraya besides Punjab CM Bhagwant Mann, Haryana deputy CM Dushyant Chautala and home minister Anil Vij in paying homage to the freedom fighter at the airport ceremony on his 115th birth anniversary
Fulfilling the long-pending demand of Punjab, Chandigarh airport was renamed Shaheed Bhagat Singh International Airport, Chandigarh, as a tribute to the freedom fighter on his 115th birth anniversary on Wednesday.
After Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement on the name change during his last Mann Ki Baat radio address, Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman officially christened the airport at a ceremony that was attended by the governors of Punjab and Haryana Banwarilal Purohit and Bandaru Dattatraya, respectively, besides Punjab chief minister Bhagwant Mann, Haryana deputy chief minister Dushyant Chautala and Haryana home minister Anil Vij.
Union minister of state for civil aviation General VK Singh (retd), Chandigarh MP Kirron Kher and airport chief executive officer Rakesh Ranjan Sahay were also present.
The renaming ended a seven-year deadlock due to the demand to add Mohali, Chandigarh and Panchkula to the name of the airport. Punjab and Haryana reached a consensus over renaming the airport after a meeting between Bhagwant Mann and Dushyant Chautala in August.
Punjab, Haryana urge Centre to start more international flights
Mann thanked the Prime Minister for fulfilling the long-pending demand of Punjabis, and that too on the revolutionary’s birth anniversary. “Finally, our efforts paid off. On behalf of the entire Punjab, we welcome the decision of naming the Chandigarh airport after Shaheed Bhagat Singh ji,” Mann said in a tweet in Punjabi.
Addressing the gathering during the ceremony, the Punjab CM said more international flights should be introduced from Chandigarh. “We have just two international flights operating from here towards Dubai and Sharjah. Since we have top-class facilities at the airport, the Centre should work on starting more international flights to prominent places, such as London, Chicago, New York and Vancouver. This will boost the footfall of passengers here.”
A similar sentiment was expressed by Haryana deputy chief minister Dushyant Chautala, who urged the Centre to increase international flights here.
Chautala proposed to install a statue of Shaheed Bhagat Singh at the airport. “The governments of Punjab and Haryana should bear the expense and put up the statue by his death anniversary on March 23,” he said.
In her address, Sitharaman said: “Our generation had an opportunity to remember the immense sacrifices of young freedom fighters like Shaheed Bhagat Singh. We are grateful to the PM for making the historic declaration. I appreciate the civil aviation ministry for making everything in order in just two days and giving us an opportunity to pay the heartiest tribute to the great freedom fighter on his birth anniversary.”
Rift between Purohit, Mann rift visible on stage
The rift between Punjab governor Banwarilal Purohit and chief minister Bhagwant Mann after Tuesday’s confidence motion in the assembly was for all to see at the ceremony. Both avoided talking despite being seated next to each other.
Mann interacted with Kirron Kher and Dushyant Chautala seated on his right but didn’t exchange a word with Purohit. It was only after the ceremony concluded that the two smiled briefly at each other.
Wednesday’s function witnessed a light moment when Haryana home minister Anil Vij mistakenly addressed Punjab CM Bhagwant Mann as “Sardar Bhagat Singh ji”, evoking laughter.
Mohali airport versus Chandigarh airport
The ₹485-crore Chandigarh Airport Project is a joint venture of the Airports Authority of India (AAI) and the governments of Punjab and Haryana. Punjab and Haryana have 24.5% share each, while the AAI has 51% share.
After the airport’s inauguration on September 11, 2015, Haryana had insisted that the international airport, a joint venture of the two states, be named after Chandigarh, the common capital of the two neighbouring states instead of Mohali airport.
Punjab had given 307-acre land in Mohali for the airport project. The airport runway is located in Chandigarh while the international terminal is located on the south side of the runway in Jhiurheri village, Mohali.
Bhagat Singh versus Mangel Sen
Later, the Congress government, led by former Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda agreed to name the airport after Shaheed Bhagat Singh, as demanded by the Punjab government.
However, after the Manohar Lal Khattar-led BJP government took the reins, it demanded that the airport be named after RSS ideologue Mangel Sen.
In 2017, the Punjab government passed a resolution that the Chandigarh International Airport be named Shaheed-e-Azam Sardar Shaheed Bhagat Singh International Airport, Mohali, to which Haryana vehemently objected, claiming that it was a move to stake claim over the airport.
Later, the Haryana government said it did not have an objection to the airport being named after Shaheed Bhagat Singh, but did not want Mohali, the Punjab district where the airport is situated, to feature in its name.