Mamata seeks more airports, foreign airlines in Bengal

Kolkata, Jan 20 (IANS) West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee Sunday appealed to the Airport Authority of India allow more flights to ply from the Kolkata airport and construct more airports in various areas of the state, saying it was now a growing investment destination.

Speaking at the inauguration of the new integrated terminal of the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport, Banerjee asked the aviation authorities to ensure that more foreign airlines operated in the city and sought night landing facility at North Begnal's Bagdogra airport.

"We need more airports in other places like Coochbehar where our government has plans to invest Rs.25 crore. We want either airport or helicopter facilities in places like Balurghat, Malda, Sunderbans and Digha," she said.

Speaking before Banerjee, Civil Aviation Secretary K.N. Srivastava drew Banerjee's notice to the poor drainage system that resulting to flooding of the NSCBI Airport during the rains, and problems being faced by its second runway.

Banerjee assured him that her government will do the necessary work from the funds allotted under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission. "It is a small matter".

The chief minister said her government would extend all help to the new terminal and demanded that the central government also cooperate "as Bengal is going to be the destination of the world".

She claimed that it was on her demand that the NSCBI airport was named after Netaji.

Noting that domestic flight services were not ready to take off at the airport, Banerjee urged the airport authority to start the services within the next 15 days.

Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh said civil aviation in India is poised for a big boost with the domestic passenger traffic expected to go up to 336 million in the next ten years from the current figure of 127 million.

Similarly the international traffic will more than double to 85 million from 41 million now, he said referring to a study.

"We have to ensure that India develops as an international hub of air travel," he said.

Srivastava said the country's aviation sector was now growing at a rate of 15 percent.

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