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Who is pressurising govt? Why is airport contract not being cancelled?

Media Coverage | 29-12-2022

Vijay Darda’s angry question: Why are MLAs, MPs in Vidarbha silent on the issues of development?

Once upon a time, aeroplanes used to land at Yavatmal airport. Planes of Devendra Fadnavis, Mallikarjun Kharge and several chief ministers have landed at this airport. However, now after seeing the pathetic condition of this airport, one feels compelled to ask whether the government wants to scrap this airport, which was built with difficulty in a tribal-dominated area like Yavatmal. Why is the government not terminating the agreement or contract with Anil Ambani’s Reliance? Raising this question, the chairman of editorial board of Lokmat Media and former member of Rajya Sabha Vijay Darda sought to know as to who is pressurising the government.

Veteran freedom fighter and founder editor of Lokmat Media Group Jawaharlal Darda alias Babuji dreamed of an airport for the Yavatmal district with rural and tribal identity and realised the dream after a lot of hard work. The airport was run properly for a few years after its commissioning. In October 2009, the airport, then owned by the Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation, was transferred to Anil Ambani’s Reliance Group.

The agreement was signed for 95 years under the terms and conditions including modernisation, financial assistance, development, maintenance, repair and management. However, all the activities were stopped later on the grounds of non-availability of passengers. Therefore, this airport, covering about 250 acres of land, is abandoned today. The over 2,100-metre runway has been damaged. There is no facility for even basic lighting there. The Central government had some time back planned to connect small towns with air services under its Udan Yojana. This scheme included Osmanabad, Latur, Nanded and Baramati districts along with Yavatmal. What happened to this plan? The airports at Yavatmal, Osmanabad have downed shutters. The airports at Latur and Baramati are functioning only as flying schools. Darda said, “I have personally spoken to Ashok Chavan, Prithviraj Chavan, Nitin Gadkari, Devendra Fadnavis many times to reopen the closed airports including the one at Yavatmal. The airports are not a luxury these days. It was also pointed out to these leaders that when Raymond Company came to Yavatmal, they had put a condition that an airport should be there. That’s why I met Anil Ambani of Reliance Group thrice with a request to start the Yavatmal airport. On every visit, he calls Satish Seth, the officer concerned, and tells him to start the airport immediately. But nothing actually happens. What nonsense is this? Is there any pressure on the government not to scrap the agreement with Reliance? On one hand, the government formulates a policy to provide 24-hour flight services, helicopter and night landing facilities, and on the other, it lets the airports built by spending crores of rupees to close down. What is going on? Surprisingly, even the MPs and MLAs of this area are silent on this important issue. Just as you (people’s representatives) pressurise the government for transfers and other works, why are you not raising your voice on the issue of development.”

The condition of the airports at Yavatmal and other districts, managed by Reliance, has become pathetic in the last 13 years. These airports need to be made functional if we honestly want that the industries should come to rural areas and the farmers should get remunerative prices. I once again request the deputy chief minister Devendra Fadnavis and the industries minister Uday Samant to look into this matter and take action immediately. Vijay Darda,

Former member of Rajya Sabha.

250-acre airport turns into a jungle!

n The airport at Yavatmal has become a jungle in the last few years. Despite having ample space, spread over 250 acres, it is not maintained properly. Animals from the surrounding villages are taken there for grazing. The control tower at the airport is on the verge of collapse. What’s more, the canteen building at the airport has become a ruin. The runway is damaged at several places. Although Reliance has two employees working there, they just have no work to do.

Jawaharlal Darda Airport at Yavatmal is in an extremely bad condition. The first photograph shows the damaged runway while the next two photographs respectively show the airport’s dilapidated control tower and the canteen building, now surrounded by bushes.

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