Jaipur, Sep 21 (IANS) More than 100 small airports will be developed across the country, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said Saturday while laying the foundation stone of the Kishangarh airport in Rajasthan.
The new airport in Ajmer district, around 120 km from Jaipur, is slated to be operational in three years. Its estimated cost will be around Rs.1.6 billion.
"Airports were considered to be a facility for the rich. However, air connectivity has now become necessary to ensure a country's development. The lack of air connectivity may prove to be a hindrance," Manmohan Singh said.
Improving air connectivity was among the government's priorities, he said.
"Initially, big cities were connected by air. Now the focus is on connecting smaller cities."
"We have launched an ambitious project to develop small airports in small towns and cities.
"As per our plans, we will develop over 100 small airports in various parts of the country. Kishangarh airport is the first project under this plan," the prime minister said.
About 16 crore people in India travelled by air last year.
"In the last 10 years, there has been a big jump in people travelling by flights. The number of passengers is expected to go up to 30 crore by the end of 2020.
"Huge investment from the government as well as from the private sector in the aviation sector is necessary to cater to this growing demand," he said.
The Kishangarh airport will prove to be convenient for tourists coming to Ajmer from all over the world, he said.
"The world-famous shrine of Sufi saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chisty and the temple town of Pushkar are major attractions for people from across the world. Besides tourism, the airport will also help in development of industries in the area," Manmohan Singh said.
The prime minister said the shrine of the Sufi saint gives the message of peace when some regions were witnessing communal violence.
"I am addressing you from the place where the world famous shrine of Sufi saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chisty gives out the message of peace and harmony. People from all religions visit the holy shrine. This message of peace and harmony becomes important when some areas in the country are witnessing communal tension," Manmohan Singh said.
He said nobody benefits from communal hatred.
"This country sets an example for the world about peace among various religions and communities. We should always keep this in mind," he said.
Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh also said the Kishangarh airport will lead to the area's development.
Rajasthan Governor Margaret Alva, Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and Corporate Affairs Minister Sachin Pilot were also present.