Citing lack of connectivity which is proving a hurdle in boosting tourism, Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur on Wednesday sought the support of all legislators for Mandi international airport as protests against the proposed project had already begun.
Issuing a suo moto statement on the issue on a question by CPM MLA from Theog Rakesh Singha, Thakur urged all legislators to support the government’s initiative as it will not only boost tourism to the state. But it will also prove beneficial for the coming generation in terms of employment opportunities and better connectivity.
Thakur cited a lack of road and rail connectivity to the tourist spots of the state and there are three small airports in the state but the high airfares deter tourists from opting for flights.
The cost of air travel to Shimla, Kullu and Gaggal Airport at Kangra is more than travel to Dubai and other foreign countries.
“It is not my individual project but the project is being implemented for the benefits of locals as well as tourists. As of now, only OLS Survey and LIDAR Survey of the airport has been conducted which has given green signal for the construction of the airport,” the CM said.
Thakur stated that the state government had taken up the issue with the Centre government, Finance Commission and Planning Commission which had sanctioned Rs 1,000 crore for constructing Greenfield airport at Mandi,
”If we are able to construct the airport, the tourists will opt for Himachal as their favourite destination and they will forget Kashmir after witnessing the scenic beauty of Himalayas,” he added.
Earlier, State Jal Shakti and Revenue minister Mahender Singh Thakur informed the assembly that the site for construction of the airport at Mandi has not been finalised as yet.
Besides, the process for acquisition of private land has also not been started, therefore the question of displacement of families does not arise at this stage, he said while responding to Rakesh Singha’s query during Question Hour.
He stated that the exact details of families to be affected and price compensation could be worked out once the process of the acquisition of land and work of social impact assessment study is completed.
The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 in Chapter-III, Section 10(2) has a provision for the acquisition of multi cropland in exceptional circumstances for any public purpose. However, provisions shall not apply in the case of projects that are linear in nature.
Earlier, raising the question, Singha said the government should also protect the interest of the people who would be displaced by the project and sought to know whether construction of the airport will be carried out by a private agency.