Sonia inaugurates Hyderabad’s world-class airport

March 15th, 2008 - 12:38 am ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Sonia Gandhi
(Lead)

Hyderabad, March 14 (IANS) India’s first greenfield airport in public-private partnership was inaugurated at Shamshabad near Hyderabad Friday evening by Congress president Sonia Gandhi. Sonia described the new airport as a magnificent facility and India’s first truly world-class airport. It was a momentous occasion for Andhra Pradesh as well as for India, she added.

The Rajiv Gandhi International Airport at Shamshabad, about 30 km from the city, the new icon of this IT hub, was unveiled in the presence of Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel, Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy.

“I congratulate all those who have helped create this magnificent facility and more so pay a special tribute to thousands of workers who by their sweat and toil have given to us a truly world-class airport,” she said before unveiling the plaque and a painting of her late husband, former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi.

“Normally, I am very averse to attending functions to lay foundation stones. I prefer to be present at commissioning ceremonies. I made exception for this airport, considering that it has come up in Andhra Pradesh with which my family has such close relationship and considering that it was in this city of Hyderabad that my husband had undergone advanced training as a pilot,” said the Congress president, who had laid foundation stone for the airport on March 16, 2005.

“I am sure Rajiv Gandhi would have been happy and proud over what has been accomplished here in a short time,” she said.

“I am sure this airport will act as magnet to stimulate new investment and employment around it. India’s first semiconductor manufacturing complex called FAB City is coming close by with $7 billion investment commitment over next 10 years.”

Stating that railways remain overriding priority for public investment, she felt that there was no conflict between in upgradation of the rail network and further expansion of airways and connectivity.

She pointed out that Greater Hyderabad has also emerged as India’s leading centre for higher education and tertiary healthcare. “Shamshabad airport should help the region to consolidate and move ahead in these areas as well,” she said.

“A large cargo complex along with associated cold chain infrastructure here would help farmers of Andhra Pradesh to export their produce and increase their income,” she said.

“There are other innovative areas where this airport can fulfil and support larger social objectives. Women’s self-help group could be given adequate place in the premises to display and sell the products produced by them. Providing them a market outlet at airport will give them tremendous boost,” she said pointing out that the women SHGs have an export zone in Narsapur in West Godavari district.

She suggested to the airport developers that tribal community of Paderu in Visakhapatnam district be also allowed to sell organic coffee that they cultivate.

Gandhi called for making the families affected by the land acquisition for the airport stakeholders.

“Ways must be found to ensure that the families whose lands have been acquired for this massive complex gain on continuous basis from commercial activity generated in the airport and around it,” she said

The airport, which has many firsts to its credit, was scheduled to commence commercial operations from 0001 hrs Sunday, and all operations from the existing airport at Begumpet in the heart of the city would be shifted to the new airport.

However, a civil aviation ministry spokesperson said in New Delhi that the commercial functioning could be delayed by a few days.

Built at a cost of Rs.25 billion, the airport is being billed as India’s first truly world-class airport, offering facilities on par with those at Oslo, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore airports. The developers claim this project would take Indian airports to a new era.

The airport, which has come up on 5,000 acres of land, has 4,260-metre-long runway, the longest in South East Asia.

The airport has been built by GMR Hyderabad International Airport Limited (GHIAL), a joint venture in which GMR Infrastructure Limited holds 63 percent, Malaysia Airports Holding Berhad 11 percent, Airports Authority of India (AAI) 13 percent and the Andhra Pradesh government 13 percent.

Designed to handle 12 million passengers in the first phase, the airport is expected to make the city an international hub on par with Dubai and Singapore and a cargo hub of Southeast Asia.

The ultimate capacity of the airport is 40 million passengers a year and one million tones of cargo annually.

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