Supected Chinese nationals held at Bagdogra Airport in Siliguri
Bagdogra is one of the busiest airports in India Credit: Facebook

Member of Parliament (MP) from Darjeeling, Raju Bista, who is also the chairman of Bagdogra Airport Advisory Committee, has criticised the Trinamool Congress (TC)-led government in West Bengal for its “indifference and apathy” towards expansion of the airport which has been receiving people more than its capacity.

In his Facebok post, the MP said, “Imagine an airport, designed to handle 400 passengers an hour, was handling around 1,000 an hour. In 2014-15, only 10 or 11 commercial flights used to operate from Bagdogra airport. Today, the number has gone up to 37 flights a day. Bagdogra had gone onto become 15th busiest airport in India.”

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According to Bista, the existing terminal was built to handle 7.5 lakh passengers every year, but the number rose to nearly four times higher than its capacity to 32.16 lakh passengers in 2019-20.

He also alleged the West Bengal government of overlooking the problems faced by the passengers and airline companies availing services at the airport in Darjeeling as the expansion project kept getting delayed.

“Yet, TMC government had repeatedly refused to handover the land needed for expansion of the airport. This had caused widespread problem for the passengers and also the airline companies,” he added.

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The Bengal government on September 30 announced its approval for the expansion of Bagdogra airport as chief minister of the state Mamata Banerjee handed over 104 acres of land to the Airports Authority of India (AAI) for the project.

In light of the increasing number of people coming to the airport, the AAI drew up plans for the expansion of the terminal building and its subsidiary infrastructure.

For the first time, the AAI paid Rs 25 crore to the state as compensation, which would further be given to a tea garden from where the land had been acquired.

“We have handed over the land that was required for the airport. It will help in the expansion of the Bagdogra airport that has recorded an exponential growth in terms of the number of passengers in the past few years,” said the MP while quoting chief minister of the state, Mamata Banerjee, as saying during an administrative review meeting of Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts.

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Raju Bista also mentioned in his Facebook post that the airport may complete its expansion project within two years, by 2023 and would cost around Rs 600 crore. After the expansion, the airport’s terminal size will increase from around 8,000 sq. km to 1 lakh sq. km. Also the capacity of handling passengers would shot up to 1.25 crore annually from 7.5 lakh, stated Bista in his post on the social media platform.

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