Construction of airstrip at Kishtwar

It may be recalled that exactly two years back, there was much hustle bustle about construction of a full fledged airstrip in Kishtwar that would be capable enough for operation of civilian aircraft aimed at reaching out to the people of erstwhile Doda district who needed air travel facility due to constraints of difficult terrain and the vast area strewn to far flung inaccessible villages . However, certain difficulties came in the way and the project got delayed since some important formalities were to be completed in respect of acquiring of more land for the airstrip which was mandatorily to be of 1200 metre length, with the Ministry of Defence as the existing airstrip was used exclusively for defence purposes.
‘UdeDeshKaAamNagrik’ (UDAN) or ‘let the common citizen of the country fly’ scheme is a key component of the PM’s National Civil Aviation Policy based on developing regional connectivity pursued by Government of India so that air travel no longer remained confined to certain places and areas or certain segments mostly from cities but making it more affordable and widespread. Since the area under reference is in need of such connectivity , construction of an airstrip at Kishtwar may start very soon as formalities in this regard are reported to have been completed. Since the project is jointly funded by the Central Government and UT Government , the latter must ensure that its part of construction expenses was duly provided so that the work on it did not get hampered. Since lockdown restrictions are being lifted gradually, the work, therefore, can be started in the right earnest.
The facilities under the prestigious UDAN scheme would definitely be of immense help to the vast population , who for most of the period especially in winter months, are not in a position to travel to other places. Emergency medical cases, urgent and unavoidable nature of such engagements and commitments which cannot be avoided, can be undertaken through the availability of the civilian aircraft for which the necessary infrastructure of construction of airstrip is a must. Though there existed an airstrip but the same was being used by the army which had certain reservations about the same being utilized for civilian purposes.
The critical appraisal of the project is its economic viability , ie; if the airstrip after going through so many formalities is built , it is important that frequency of air service too should commence. Has enough ground work been done in terms of how many passengers on daily basis could afford or utilize the services . In the absence of that , the facility could be utilized by the select or the elite or at best the Government officials who would “find enough ground of urgency” to fly from Kishtwar for ”official assignments”. What we mean is that the very purpose of the UDAN scheme of making air travel accessible to people of far flung areas and difficult terrains must be achieved in real terms.
Even Udhampur airport is scheduled to be utilized for civilian aircraft which , however, is currently exclusively under the control of the army. That development was bound to herald a new chapter in the aviation area and bring about more economic development of the area. However , it is expected that a favourable decision in this connection could be taken in the near future. Since it is again a question of demand , the bidders among the operators of air services would take a call on it before embarking upon agreeing to operate. For this purpose, committed mass awareness is required.