CHANDIGARH AIRPORT CONTROVERSY: IS IT MOHALI INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT?
Just after the appearance of Chandigarh on the world map, in terms of international connectivity was marked, the much awaited Chandigarh Airport found itself in a major state-based controversy.
While it is officially called Chandigarh International Airport, the Punjab government referred to it as Mohali International Airport in its advertisements and hoardings as the land as such falls in Mohali (SAS Nagar). Haryana, an equal partner in the project, took umbrage and chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar sent a terse letter to his Punjab counterpart, Parkash Singh Badal, objecting to the “misleading advertisement campaign”.
“I am deeply anguished by the advertisements… this is factually incorrect. The fact is that the nomenclature of this airport has not yet been decided by the Government of India,” he wrote, urging Badal to look into the matter and take “remedial action”.
At 5.15pm on Thursday, Chandigarh International Airport actually became international as a flight from Sharjah landed with 128 passengers onboard an 186-seater plane. At 6.35pm, an Air India Express plane carrying 182 passengers to Sharjah departed too, this being the first flight from this airport to a foreign destination.
Asked to comment, Union civil aviation minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju, who was present at the Sharjah flight launch , said the Centre has received several requests to name the airport after Shaheed Bhagat Singh. “We are considering it. But it is a long process,” he said, sitting next to CM Badal and his deputy Sukhbir Singh Badal, who did not say anything. Sukhbir, who touted the airport as one of his mega projects for the state, later took the inaugural flight. Khattar was to attend the event, too, but did not.
However, Raju also mentioned, “The people of this region should not have any problem if it is called Chandigarh International Airport.”
Thursday’s episode has revived the bitter memories of an old dispute between the two partner states over the name of the airport. The airport is managed by a joint venture entity, Chandigarh International Airport Limited (CHIAL), in which the Airports Authority of India has the majority stake of 51%, and Punjab and Haryana are equal partners with 24.5% each.