Decks cleared for civil terminal in Taj city Agra

Agra, June 18 (IANS) Ending years of uncertainty, union Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh has cleared a civil aviation terminal at the Kheria Air Force Base in this Taj city, raising hopes of increased tourist traffic, a senior tourism industry official said. Once it is functional, passengers will not have to pass through the air base to board their aircraft.

"This is a welcome development and work must begin immediately so that flights can resume during the coming tourist season (beginning September end)," Rajiv Tiwari, president of the Federation of Travel Agents of India, told IANS.

The development comes as the Uttar Pradesh government Monday cleared a proposal for an international airport at Agra.

District officials here said the Airports Authority of India (AAI) team that visited Agra last week to select a location and finalise plans for a civil terminal at Dhanuali village adjacent to the Kheria Air Force Base, did not respond favourably to acquiring 60 acres of land as this would have cost the ministry several hundred crores of rupees to compensate the farmers.

As an alternative, Ajit Singh zeroed in on unused Indian Air Force land and had discussions with Defence Minister A.K. Antony for transferring around 60 acres for the terminal building. This has now been agreed upon, officials said.

"Despite being India's number one Tourist destination drawing more than six million visitors, Agra's demand for air connectivity has remained stalled for various reasons including the interests of the Delhi lobby of hoteliers and travel agents. Since chartered flights are already landing at Kheria airport and we had one lone flight last season connecting Khajuraho and Varanasi, a terminal at Kheria is a very good idea. Visitors will not have to go through the air force base to reach the plane," K.C. Jain, president of the Agra Development Foundation, told IANS.

In view of the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, Ajit Singh is keen that the civil terminal complex at Agra takes wing.

"This project could create favourable conditions for both father and son in this Jat belt of Agra and Mathura," activist Shravan Kumar Singh said.

(Brij Khandelwal can be contacted at brij.k@ians.in)

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