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AAI stakes claim on Dahisar land, revives office

The move to send an AAI officer daily to a hitherto unmanned station has raised some eyebrows within aviation circles in Mumbai, report Suman Layak & Lalatendu Mishra.

india Updated: Nov 04, 2006 22:43 IST

A 63-acre plot belonging to the Airports Authority of India (AAI) located in the faraway western suburb of Dahisar finds itself in the news after the AAI started deputing an officer for daily duty there to man its receiving station that lay defunct till about 15 months ago.

The move to send an AAI officer daily to a hitherto unmanned station has raised some eyebrows within aviation circles in Mumbai.

There are hints with the AAI union that the move could have been done to thwart any proposal by the Mumbai International Airports Ltd (MIAL), a GVK-SA led consortium, the new airport management, to utilize vacant land around this plot to relocate part of the slums that have encroached on airport land or atleast to build transit camps there.

On the face of it, MIAL has denied any such move. AAI, on the other hand, has gone to great lengths to explain how this station had become important in the face of ever increasing air traffic and hence the need to re-start it.

The plot is located about 17 kms from the Mumbai airport.

SRR Rao, Executive Director (Western Region), AAI told Hindustan Times, "We have restarted the Dahisar receiving station due to compelling reasons. Air traffic has increased and we need this facility and the land around it. We need to have our receiver at a secluded place away from human habitation for better reception of radio communications."

The station had been closed down in 1994 and off late has been operating as an unmanned station for sometime. While Rao said it has been operating as an unmanned station for the last one and a half years, an AAI-trade-union source, who refused to be quoted, claimed that the station was restarted only in March this year.

Timing is another factor that has led to some deductions being drawn. AAI, from October 3, 2006, started deputing one officer from the Communication, Navigation and Surveillance (CNS) cadre, to travel up to Dahisar everyday and spend a few hours at the station.

MIAL, that has been mandated to modernise the airport, unveiled their master plan only nine days later on October 12.

The old building at Dahisar is now being repaired. Tiles have been fitted in the toilets and technical room. The building has an abandoned look from outside.

The plot of land is located just beside the Western Express Highway and is conservatively valued at Rs 80 crore.

Officers, who live near the airport, are sometimes being asked to travel even in autorickshaws to Dahisar if official cars are unavailable. The CNS team has around 70 engineers now, but needs at least 30 per cent more to cope up with the rising pressure.

Trade union sources said that officers, who provide the technical support to the air-traffic control, are often stretched and are put on continuous duties.

There were various alternatives floated to use this land at Dahisar commercially. While none of the alternatives have been finalised, the AAI move seems to have checkmated any plans that included the 63 acres at Dahisar.

An MIAL spokesperson said, "It is AAI's land and they are the owners. We have no comments." On the possible rehabilitation of slum dwellers on the Dahisar land, the spokesperson said, "As of now there is no such plan as the survey on rehabilitation is still on."

Rao denies that the AAI move is aimed at checkmating plans to settle encroachers at Dahisar. He said, "This is pure fiction. I do not know any resettlement plan here. We need the land for the effective functioning of the receiving station. But the government has the right to take the final decision."

AAI officials refusing to be named said that local goons often use the area to have wild liquor parties at night and a lone security guard posted there has no chance of preventing them.

The land has no boundary wall. A part has been encroached by a few motor garages on the western side.Mosquitoes, snakes and cats seem to be permanent inhabitants.

AAI is trying to clean up the place to make it little more habitable.


First Published: Nov 04, 2006 22:43 IST