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The Yogi Adityanath government has undertaken the development of a dozen new airports in Uttar Pradesh (UP) to boost regional connectivity and boost religious, cultural, and business tourism.
In the first phase, the state government would develop Agra and Kanpur airports after bidding under the regional connectivity scheme (RCS) of the Union Civil Aviation Ministry. In the second phase, 10 airports – Allahabad, Aligarh, Azamgarh, Bareilly, Chitrakoot, Hindon (Ghaziabad), Jhansi, Moradabad, Muirpur (Sonbhadra), and Shravasti – would be taken up.
Under a memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed between the Centre, UP and Airport Authority of India (AAI), the implementing agency, on December 29, the government is mandated to provide concessions and sops to selected airline operators for operating flights at these smaller airports. The sops pertain to underwriting of unsold seats, tax rebate, free infrastructure facilities, and fuel subsidy, among others.
While Agra, Allahabad, Chitrakoot, and Shravasti are prominent cultural and religious tourism hubs in UP, the remaining centres would either boost air connectivity in remote areas, such as Jhansi and Azamgarh, or provide direct air connectivity to big industrial pockets, like Kanpur (leather), Aligarh (lock making units) or Moradabad (brassware).
Most of these places already have airstrips, which would be further upgraded and developed to operate scheduled and chartered air services.
Earlier, the Yogi government had urged the Centre to expedite the proposal to upgrade the Chitrakoot airstrip to promote Buddhist Circuit tourism in the region.
Under the proposed incentives, the state government would coordinate with oil marketing companies for provision of fuelling infrastructure at the RCS airports on best effort basis. The state would also provide land free from all encumbrances for development of RCS airports and provide multimodal hinterland connectivity (road, rail, metro, waterways, etc) as required.
The state has even identified 350 acres of land in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's parliamentary constituency of Varanasi for the up-gradation of the airstrip. Similarly, the Lucknow airport is proposed to be upgraded with an investment of Rs 1,200 crore, an expenditure that would be incurred by the AAI. The Gorakhpur airport is also lined up for up-gradation.
The Centre had given in-principle approval to the proposed Jewar airport in Greater Noida, which would entail an investment of about Rs 20,000 crore. It would serve as an international airport in the National Capital Region (NCR) and help to decongest the existing New Delhi airport in the future.
The previous Akhilesh Yadav government also espoused boosting air travel with smaller aircraft between important cities; however, the scheme failed to take off.
In UP, there are two dozen airports and airstrips owned either by AAI or the state government, located in Lucknow, Kanpur, Varanasi, Bareilly, Meerut, Saifai (Etawah), Sultanpur, Ghaziabad, Aligarh, Farrukhabad, Faizabad, Kushinagar, Sonbhadra, Moradabad, and Azamgarh, among others. Besides, the UP civil aviation department owns 18 airstrips; of which, the Jhansi airstrip is controlled by the Indian Army.