Fact Check: Is Sikkim's First Airport The 100th Airport Of India As Claimed By PM Modi?
The mountain state of Sikkim finally joins the rest of the country in the aviation map. Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated Pakyong airport in East Sikkim district, located at a distance of 28 kms from Gangtok, the capital city of Sikkim on Monday. With Sikkim getting its first airport, the state is likely to get more revenue from tourism.
Sanction of Pakyong Airport
The picturesque greenfield airport which was sanctioned by the UPA government in 2008 has taken nearly a decade to become operational.
“The project was delayed for 50 months due to several hindrances like connectivity of site, adverse weather conditions, frequent bandhs and unrest by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha. Additionally, an earthquake in 2011 and continuous agitation by the local inhabitants of the surrounding areas of the airport project demanding compensation for damage to their houses delayed this further,” said G. M. Siddeshwara, then the minister of state for civil aviation.
Though 83% of the work had already been completed by July 2014 as stated by the government, it could only become operational now and has been included as a part of the UDAN (Ude Desh ka Aam Nagrik) scheme of the government, launched in 2016.
Prime Minister at the Pakyong Airport’s inauguration
“In the Pakyong Airport, Sikkim gets its first airport and India its one hundredth. Today is a momentous day for the aviation sector. Delighted to have inaugurated the airport in Sikkim. Come, visit Sikkim and experience the beauty and hospitality of the state” tweeted Mr Modi
During the inauguration ceremony of the airport, the Prime Minister said: “There are 100 airports in India out of which thirty-five were built in the last four years”. He also claimed that over the 67 years of independent India till 2014, 65 airports were averaging to one airport per year, but since the last four years, nine airports has been constructed on an average.
Is Pakyong airport really the 100th airport in India?
Airports Authority of India (AAI) under the civil aviation ministry is responsible for creating, upgrading, maintaining and managing civil aviation infrastructure in India. As reported by The Quint, the annual report 2017-18 of the civil aviation mentions that AAI owns 129 airports, out of which 23 are international, 78 domestic, eight customs and 20 civil enclaves at defence airfields. Also, according to the replies (here and here) filed by the government on July 19, 2018, and August 8, 2018, of the 129 airports owned by AAI, 101 airports including civil enclaves are operational, and 28 are non-operational.
Fact check of Mr Modi’s statement
The number of airports managed by AAI as on December 2014 was 125, according to a reply filed by the Ministry of Civil Aviation on December 1, 2014. Out of these, 94 airports/civil enclaves are operational and 31 airports/ civil enclaves are non-operational.
This clearly shows that the number of operational airports constructed during 2014-18 is only seven, unlike the number (35 airports in four years) mentioned by the Prime Minister in his speech during the inauguration.
UDAN is a regional connectivity scheme (RCS) introduced by the Government of India in 2016, with the objective of “Let the common citizen of the country fly”. As reported earlier by The Logical Indian, there are at least 400 or more ‘unserved’ airports in India. The unserved airports are the ones who have seen no flights in the last few air schedules. There are other types of airports, called the ‘under-served’ airports which have very few flights. To increase the regional connectivity and to fully utilise the ‘unserved’ and ‘under-served’ airports, this scheme of UDAN was launched in October 2016. Under this scheme the cost of 50% of the seats will be capped at Rs. 2500, considering the common man.