Monday 22 August 2011

Pithoragarh Naini-Saini Air Strip marred by uncertainty

Written by Anil Singh

Those who are unaware of the Naini-Saini airport, here is brief snippet. The Naini-Saini Airstrip was constructed in Pithoragargh city of Uttarakhand about a decade ago. The strip, which for some time had the distinction of being the only other air strip in Uttarakhand, apart from Jolly Grant in Dehradun; was constructed on acquired prime agricultural land in villages surrounding the city of Pithoragarh. The land acquired was known for paddy cultivation and obviously quite fertile. The villages adversely affected by the air strip were -- Gaithan, Sujain, Ormattha, Naini and Saini.

For close to a decade of its construction, the air strip is used for non flight purposes; like army recruitment drills. The air strip is non-functional even now.

To emphasize here, those villagers who lost their land to air strip; were not even compensated well for their land. They fell into the government trap, after being assured that the air strip will develop the region, by encouraging tourism.

Government on the other hand tried to justify the air strip, on the basis of its strategic importance (Pithoragarh is a cantonment city) to the nation.

Now reports are that the Government would further delay the construction of Naini-Saini airport. The Uttarakhand Government has cancelled its agreement with Stup, the company which was appointed as a consultant for its expansion and modernisation in the hilly Pithoragarh district last year. Uttarakhand State Infrastructure Development Corporation Ltd (USIDCL) which is the nodal agency for the development of the airport, has now decided to invite fresh bids. Notably, the USIDCL had appointed Mumbai-based Stup following a bidding process and agreed to pay Rs 3.51 crore as the consultancy fees as being demanded by the firm.

According to a USIDCL official, the primary reason for Stup backing out was government’s attempt to renegotiate the consultancy fees.An amount of Rs 56 core is proposed for expanding and strengthening the runway, upgrading other related operational infrastructure and terminal facilities at the Naini Saini airport.

Actually the process of the construction of Naini-Saini airport began in 2002-03 but due to various reasons it has failed to take off. This is the third time, the Government has cancelled the bids.

Naini Sani airport is a testimony of Government short sightedness and opacity. If the air strip had to remain non-functional for a decade now; then why was it built at the very first place? This is akin to depriving farmers of their land for no purpose all this while.

0 constructive comments: