Gorakhpur, the pocket borough of Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath, is slowly emerging as a regional air travel hub, with plans afoot to connect the district with all top cities in India.
Major cities on the Gorakhpur air connectivity itinerary include Mumbai, Kolkata, Bengaluru and Kathmandu. Currently, Gorakhpur airport handles flights to-and-fro Delhi, Lucknow, Varanasi, Hyderabad, Nagpur, Jaipur, Chandigarh, and Pune.
The thrust to air travel emanates from the Centre’s regional connectivity scheme and the proactive stance taken by the Adityanath government to boost the aviation sector for tourism and industrial development.
In the backdrop of the Gorakhpur parliamentary bypoll defeat at the hands of the Samajwadi Party (SP)-Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) combine, Adityanath has upped the ante in reiterating his priorities for his home turf with 2019 Lok Sabha poll less than 8 months away, when prime minister Narendra Modi would seek re-election.
On Monday, private carrier Indigo launched its direct daily flights between New Delhi and Gorakhpur. Adityanath had flagged off the inaugural flight in the presence of union civil aviation minister Suresh Prabhu and his deputy Jayant Sinha. Now, three airlines viz. Air India, Spice Jet and Indigo operate flights to-and-fro Gorakhpur.
In his address, the CM had observed that Gorakhpur airport, which erstwhile resembled a roadside eatery, had undergone a massive transformation with the support of the Centre. He also inaugurated the new terminal building phase II of the airport equipped with modern amenities.
Gorakhpur has a military airbase that doubles up as an airport from where domestic flights are being operated. Although Gorakhpur is the largest urban centre and trading hub in Eastern UP, catering not only to the neighbouring district but also the adjoining Bihar and Nepal, it had been lacking in proper infrastructure of road and air connectivity, impeding the harnessing of its socioeconomic potential.
However, after Adityanath, who is also the head seer of the powerful Gorakhpur-based Gorakshnath Peeth monastic order, the district started to gain prominence and attention. He regularly visits Gorakhpur for taking stock of the development projects pertaining to urban development, health, infrastructure etc. In fact, a ‘mini secretariat’ of sorts has been planned in Gorakhpur to allow the CM to hold meetings with officials during his visits.
Meanwhile, under the regional connectivity scheme, the state plans to develop 12 airports in UP, besides making the pitch for two greenfield international airports at Jewar and Kushinagar.
Varanasi and Gorakhpur will also be connected to the proposed Purvanchal Expressway with link roads. Earlier, Adityanath had asked Gorakhpur Industrial Development Authority (GIDA) to aggregate industrial land bank totalling 10,000 acres near the proposed Gorakhpur link road of the proposed Expressway. GIDA has land bank of 1,700 acres and ramping up it by 10,000 acres means augmenting it almost six times.