Unwise Proposal

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Closure of Jammu Airport

In a unilateral decision, the Indian Air Force (IAF) has proposed closure of the Jammu airport for civilian traffic for 15 days next month for runway resurfacing work. Officials said that Air Force Station, Jammu wants complete closure of the runway for 15 days towards laying of final two top DAC-II layers on the runway surface from March 06 to 20, which has been approved by Air Headquarters. Nearly two dozen flights operate to and from the Jammu airport, and in view of the development, all the companies operating their flights in the sector have stopped booking for the period. The decision has been rightly resented by the Jammu and Kashmir administration with Chief Secretary of the Union Territory seeking the Defence Ministry’s intervention into the matter. , officials said on Wednesday. The UT administration wants the concerned agency to ensure that the resurfacing is carried out in such a manner that civilian air traffic is not affected during the day time as complete closure of the airport for 15 days would create huge administrative issues for the government of Jammu and Kashmir.

It may be mentioned here that the Jammu airport, being the only civil airport in the division, caters to the requirement of civilian air traffic for the entire province and serves as the only connecting airport for Mata Vaishno Devi shrine. Besides the air connectivity to Kashmir also gets disturbed and even disconnected in extreme weather conditions and in such cases, the air traffic at Jammu increases manifold as Kashmir-bound passengers also prefer disembarking at the Jammu airport. Interestingly the IAF’s proposal comes at a time when following August 5, 2019 and Covid-19, the tourists had started visiting Jammu and Kashmir in good numbers. Closing down the Jammu Airport for civilian traffic would have an adverse impact the flow of tourists besides hitting all sections of the society and the decision is likely to have serious fallout on the economy of Jammu and Kashmir.

One wonders why IAF hadn’t taken up the runway resurfacing during the peak Covid-19 crisis when there was hardly any civilian traffic. Had the job been done during those months, it would not have impacted either the flow of tourists, that was zero during those days, or the other sections of the society which were staying indoors.  Now that without giving a serious thought to what the closing down of Jammu Airport IAF has decided to go ahead with the proposal, need is to do the same in such a way that the civilian air traffic is not disrupted. For that IAF should plan and execute the proposed work of runway surfacing during night time so that civil aircraft operations are not hampered.

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