Chruchill threatens to resign

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Panaji, Aug 11 (UNI) The vitriolic PWD minister Churchill Alemao today threatened to resign if the Centre fails to sign an MOU at the earliest with the State ensuring retention of existing Dabolim airport after setting up a greenfield international airport at Mopa in North Goa.

''I don't mind quitting the government in Goa if the union ministry of civil aviation does not sign an MOU with the state government to ensure retention, development and expansion of the existing Dabolim airport in South Goa before going ahead with the Mopa airport project,'' Mr Churchill told UNI.

He said he already had a dialogue with Chief Minister Digambar Kamat on the issue and there was no change in his approach to the Dabolim airport.

''If Dabolim airport is closed, entire hosopitality sector in South Goa would suffer and its economy will collapse, only to benefit the people of North Goa and neighbouring Maharashtra. We will not allow this. I joined the Congress on this condition when the government was in minority,'' he said.

It might be recalled that Churchill had resigned as South Goa MP and also the Congress before leading the regional outfit of Save Goa Front to launch a vitriolic campaign against the State and the Centre in the hope that the party would be voted to power in June 2 polls last year.

With hopes dashed and the SGF winning only two seats, he joined hands with the BJP and other forces to launch yet another ''save democracy'' campaign against Kamat government plunging it into minority in July-August last year.

All the rivals even airdashed to New Delhi for parading before the President of India on the lawns of Rashtrapathi Bhawan for a head count, demanding dismissal of the minority government of Kamat.

But, in a volte face, he announced support to Kamat government on his comeback only to be sworn in as the coveted PWD minister to the surprise of all. Later, he along with his fellow legislator Laureoco joined the Congress.

Churchill had recently come back to Goa after he had undergone a knee surgery at Beach Candy Hospital in Mumbai and started voicing against the Mopa airport again.

This preceded high-level committee headed by Chief Minister submitting its report in favour of Mopa airport to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last month and speeding up the process of acquiring 2,500 acres of land by invoking emergency clause to facilitate early work on construction of the airport at Mopa.

The Chief Minister and other members of the six-member committee including two other MPs made it clear to the Prime Minister that Dabolim airport should not be closed after Mopa airpott comes into being but expanded and further strengthened to handle additional traffic.

The government, according to chief secretary J P Singh was contemplating to float global tenders for constructing Mopa airport through Public-Private-Partnership route.

It was also examining a proposal to handover maintenance of both the airports to one agency so that it would take care of their viability without any clash even as Mopa could serve as a cargo hub for entire westren region easing the congestion of the Mumbai and other airports.

UNI BM SR CS RAI2239

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