Airstrip in UP, built at a cost of Rs 311-cr, being used to learn driving
The airstrip, mooted by the then Samajwadi Party government in 2014, is 3 km long and 450 metre wide.Updated: Jun 20, 2019, 10:29 IST
A high-flying idea has come down crashing in Kanpur Dehat.
Constructed in 2017 at a whopping cost of Rs 311 crore, this sophisticated airstrip in Mahratabad village of Maitha sub-division has not seen any aircraft landing or taking off in the last two years and is being used by motor training schools and individuals to learn car driving.
Social activist Hanuman Gupta said, “The air strip is unguarded and the lapse allows motor driving schools and individuals to misuse it. In a way, it is the biggest and widest road with zero traffic in a district which has narrow streets or one highway NH2.”
Neeraj Yadav, village headman, Marhatabad, said the entire place was unguarded and people get inside the main entrance that remained open day in day out.
“We have tried to dissuade people from using the airstrip to become drivers; it can only be saved if guards are deployed or it is made operational,” he said.
Prashant Awasthi, a Shivli-based driver who helps people learn driving, said the size of the place makes it an attraction for the people. “Where else they will get 3 km long and half a km wide road in the entire district; they learn quickly on the airstrip not only how to drive but how reverse the vehicle,” said Awasthi, who charges Rs 100 for a 30 minutes session.
The airstrip, mooted by the then Samajwadi Party government in 2014, is 3 km long and 450 metre wide.
“One motor training school charges Rs 500 extra if one wants to learn driving on the airstrip,” he said.
Gupta said the SP government felt an airport could be developed in the area because of its proximity to Kanpur. “The existing Chakeri airport is sharing a small runway of the Indian Air Force (IAF), though its proposed expansion has not taken off,” he said.
After getting approval from the union ministry for civil aviation, land was acquired from the villagers. A Haryana-based company bagged the contract for the project.
“Successful trials of landing and takeoff were conducted in 2018 but it was the last time any aircraft hovered on this airstrip,” he said.
“At that time, the UP Cricket Association (UPCA) was looking for land in Kanpur Dehat for its own stadium and Kanpur was getting IPL matches too. Teams were landing in Lucknow and coming to Kanpur by bus. The airstrip was planned keeping many factors in mind but sadly a good idea has gone waste,” Gupta said.
So far only the runway and the boundary wall has been built and the state has not released the budget for the air traffic control, guest house, inspection house and so on. Unless ATC is not in place, the airstrip cannot be made operational.
Officer in-charge of the airstrip SP Lal said the airstrip required air network, control room, administrative building, guest house and staff quarters to be ready for use.
Senior district administration officials refused to comment on the issue.
A senior officer of the aviation department, who did not wish to be named, said the previous government had planned to allot various airstrips lying abandoned in the state to private flying clubs so that they could look after its maintenance but the scheme could not materialise.
“Till the entire network of administrative block is provided at the airstrip, it would be advisable that the government gives it to private flying clubs. This will help in regular maintenance of the airstrip,” the officer said.