Chidambaram and Scindia spar on Twitter over airport openings

Battle of claims and counterclaims as Chidambaram challenges the government’s airport record and Scindia offers a detailed response

| Updated: 30 July, 2023 11:45 pm IST
Minister of Civil Aviation Jyotiraditya Scindia and former Union finance minister P Chidambaram

NEW DELHI:A war of words broke out between former Union minister P Chidambaram and Minister of Civil Aviation Jyotiraditya Scindia over the issue of opening Airports in the country.

The matter started when Chidambaram, citing a media report, claimed that claims by the present government of opening 74 airports in the last seven years are hollow and untrue. He said the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led Central government managed to open just 11 new airports since 2014.

Chidambaram tweeted, “The 74 “airports” include nine helicopter stations and two waterdromes. The waterdromes closed down soon after the ‘inauguration’! Out of the 74 “airports”, 15 are no longer in use because there are no flights! The BJP-NDA government launched 479 new “routes”. Out of these, 225 are no longer in operation!”

Scindia was quick to react as he tweeted, “PChidambaram_IN Ji, clearly,fact checking is not the current Congress’ strong suit. Desperation for survival and relevance has hit senior, discerning leaders such as yourself. Please do not perpetuate half-baked truths!”

In a detailed tweet, Scindia replied to Chidambaram in six points, where he said, “1. The Govt. under the visionary leadership of PM Modi, has “operationalised” 74 airports, some of which had been lying unutilised for decades & were national liabilities, thanks to zero initiative taken by the previous UPA govts! Therefore, the list of 74 includes, both, erstwhile unutilized airports, as well as new airports.”

He said the government, under the Greenfield Airports Policy 2008, has operationalised 12 Airports in the country since 2015. Operations in Hirasar (inaugurated this week) will begin shortly. “For your information, only 3 greenfield airports were built in the last 65 years,” Scindia said.

The Union Minister said, “Operation of a route is completely dependent on market demand (airlines assess the feasibility of operation on a particular route and bid under the scheme).”

“Airport infrastructure can be utilised as and when demand picks up. Also, as airlines create capacities and demand for air travel picks up, many discontinued routes are being bid for again by airlines under new rounds of the UDAN scheme,” Scindia added.

“Under the UDAN scheme, 74 Airports/Heliports/Water Aerodromes have been revived/upgraded and operationalised since the inception of the scheme,” he added.

More than 1.23 crore people and 2.23 lakh flights have flown under the UDAN scheme – the possibility of which was NIL during the UPA regime. And that’s a FACT that can’t be washed away by sensationalist Twitter posts,” Scindia said.

He further said the government’s efforts in building 74 airports/Heliports/water aerodromes demonstrate its commitment to expanding infrastructure and accessibility to remote areas and supporting regional development. Most of these airports are the only source of direct connectivity with far-flung cities, such as Darbhanga, Jharsuguda, Jamshedpur, Rourkela etc. The UDAN scheme is also the sole reason behind the birth of many regional airlines that cater to such routes.

Scindia said, “These developments have involved incurring unprecedented capital investment – almost ₹75000 crores in the last 10 years – which is directly linked to the growth of employment in the country and has a deep social impact apart from meeting the growing aspirations of all the strata of society to undertake air travel.”

“What earlier governments failed to achieve in 70 years has been achieved in merely 9 years,” he summed up.

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