Sikkim Chief Minister Pawan Chamling has requested Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju Pusapati to look into the matter of making the Pakyong Airport functional at the earliest.
The first public air base in the state is a greenfield airport at Pakyong in east Sikkim, 35 km from capital Gangtok.
Sikkim being a landlocked State has had to face a lot of difficulties owing to the Gorkhaland agitation in neighbouring West Bengal since 1986.
As the state is devoid of rail and air links, the roadway is the only link. The State shares 30 km stretch of NH10 with West Bengal. Unrest in the Darjeeling Hills and Kalimpong brings life to a grinding halt in Sikkim.
"I apprised the Hon'ble Minister on the importance of the Airport as a means of connectivity for the people of the State and also for defense purpose in a border, hilly and a landlocked state like Sikkim. I also requested him for looking into the matter in making the Airport functional at the earliest" stated CM Chamling.
A meeting took place between the Union Minister for Civil Aviation, Government of India and Chief Minister Chamling attended by Sudhir Raheja, Member Planning, Airports Authority of India; BP Sharma, CMD, Pawanhans; Ms Usha Padhee, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Civil Aviation along with officials of State Tourism and Civil Aviation Department at Gangtok.
The Civil Aviation Minister stressed on the Union Government's focus on connectivity with stress on remote areas with the Indian mainland.
A detail presentation of the Pakyong airport was made by Sudhir Raheja, Member Planning, Airports Authority of India.
Chief Minister Chamling also took the opportunity to stress on rehabilitation and compensation for land losers.
"As Airports Authority of India is solely responsible for the construction, operation, and maintenance of the Pakyong Airport, I asked them to take necessary action related to making payments against damages and compensation to the affected people surrounding the airport locality" stated Chamling.
The Pakyong Airport project had commenced in 2009 and was supposed to finish by 2012. The construction has finished on the site. The terminal and the runway are ready with infrastructure. It is awaiting a green signal from the Airport Authority of India.
At present, the nearest airport from Gangtok is Bagdogra, located 125km away in Darjeeling district of West Bengal.