‘First flight’s landing akin to paying obeisance to revered land’, PM in Kushinagar
Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated Kushinagar International Airport in Uttar Pradesh on Wednesday, which will improve connectivity to Buddhist pilgrimage sites in India.
Referring to the maiden flight from Sri Lanka that arrived at the airport on Wednesday with over 100 Buddhist monks and dignitaries on board, Modi said the flight’s landing was akin to paying obeisance to the revered land. Kushinagar is a sacred Buddhist site, where Lord Buddha is believed to have delivered his last sermon and attained salvation or Mahaparinirvana.
“It (airport) is a result of hopes and aspirations of decades... Kapilavastu and Sarnath are nearby as is Bodh Gaya where he [Lord Buddha] gained enlightenment… these are places of reverence for people from Laos, Korea, Sri Lanka, Japan, Indonesia among others,” Modi said
He added that as a parliamentary representative from the region, he also feels a sense of accomplishment on the completion of the project. Modi represents Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh.
Modi underlined the fillip that the airport will give to economic activity and tourism in the region. He added that farmers, entrepreneurs and a host of other people will benefit from the connectivity offered by the new airport. “It will create an ecosystem of economy, tourism and create avenues of employment.”
“Whether it is aastha or ananda (faith or pleasure), modern infrastructure is a prerequisite,” he said, stressing the need to develop roads, airways and waterways along with hotels, and the internet for boosting tourism.
He said the Union government is working to augment air connectivity and that of the 900 plus new routes that have been approved in the last seven years, services have already begun on 350.
He referred to the accessibility of air services. Modi added amid improved services, many people are now flying. “ In UP (Uttar Pradesh), nine new airports have become operational. There will be newer airports In Ayodhya, Azamgarh, Moradabad, Shrawasti, Aligarh … soon.”
Till 2017, the state had only four operational airports--one each at Lucknow, Varanasi, Gorakhpur and Agra. After 2017, five airports have become operational--Prayagraj, Kanpur, Hindon, Bareilly, and Kushinagar International airport. With this, the state now has nine airports operational.
Meanwhile, Samajwadi Party president and former chief minister, Akhilesh Yadav accused the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of taking credit for projects launched by them. “When they (BJP) didn’t even lay a brick for the foundation…and yet they come to inaugurate a project launched during the Samajwadi Party time with their scissors, ribbons, garland and sweets... BJP leaders must remember that merely becoming a pilot doesn’t mean you own the plane. They should also remember that the groundwork of the highway project on which you are taking off, has been prepared by someone else,” Yadav tweeted soon after the prime minister unveiled the project. The Samajwadi Party said on Tuesday that the project was sanctioned in 2016 when Yadav was the state’s chief minister.
At the event, PM Modi also referred to the Air India sale as a big step that will give new energy to the aviation sector. Modi’s comments come weeks after Tata group emerged as the winning bidder for Air India paving the way for the disinvestment of the loss-making carrier.
Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath said the new airport is a flight of development for the people of eastern Uttar Pradesh. He added that from 1947 to 2014, the state had only two functional airports, Lucknow and Varanasi. “Connectivity was with only for 15 or 16 places. Now we have nine functional airports and will be connected to 75 places. Construction of an International Airport is on at war-footing in Ayodhya and the second one in Gautam Buddha Nagar.”
The Jewar airport in Gautam Buddha Nagar (Greater Noida) will be NCR’s second airport.
Union aviation minister Jyotiraditya Scindia said direct flights four times a week between Delhi and Kushinagar will begin from November 26. He added the airport will then be connected with Mumbai and Kolkata too. “The airport will connect eight main Buddhist religious centres. What was not possible for years is being realised today,” Scindia added.
Commenting on how the project was accelerated, Scindia said that , across India, from 34, the number of airports has increased to 181 in the past seven years.
Congress spokesperson Zeeshan Haidar slammed both the BJP and the SP. “I agree with the Samajwadi Party about the BJP wrongly claiming credit for projects. However, the SP too must remember in whose period the clearance for the big-ticket projects that SP chief Akhilesh Yadav so often refers to had come about... As for the BJP, I will say that inviting Modi for inaugurations won’t help the chief minister because people now know that all such big-ticket activity happens only around elections,” Haidar said.
(with inputs from Lucknow)