By Sujit Chakraborty
Agartala: After Guwahati and Imphal, the Agartala airport is set to become the third international airport in the northeastern region by the end of this year or by early 2020, a Minister said here.
“The Airport Authority of India (AAI) has informed us that their ongoing works to make Agartala’s Maharaja Bir Bikram (MBB) Airport as an international one would be completed by this year end. But if the works are hampered due to the monsoon season or any other factor, then the declaration would be made by early 2020,” Tripura Transport and Tourism Minister Pranajit Singha Roy told IANS.
The AAI had undertaken a Rs 438 crore project to upgrade the Agartala airport to international standards by providing world-class facilities.
“The budgeted expenditure of Rs 438 crore is expected to be escalated. However, our government constantly asking the AAI to complete the works early and maintain the stipulated standards,” the Minister added.
Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb also recently discussed with the Civil Aviation Minister in New Delhi about the upgradation of the Agartala airport, which was built in 1942 by then King Maharaja Bir Bikram Kishore Manikya Bahadur.
According to an official of the Chief Minister’s Office, Union Civil Aviation Minister Raj Kumar Singh responded positively when Deb requested him to expedite the works.
The airport in Agartala is the second busiest in the northeast after Guwahati’s Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport. The Imphal airport was declared as an international one two years ago.
During the World War II, the Agartala airport was used by the 4th Combat Cargo Group of the US Army Air Forces 10 Air Force, flying Curtiss C-46 Commando aircraft over Myanmar.
It was used as a supply point from which the unit air-dropped supplies and ammunition to the advancing Allied forces on the ground.
Following the completion of the project, Singha Roy said flights between Agartala and Dhaka, as well as other Bangladeshi cities like Chittagong and Sylhet, will be operated.
“The state government had already provided 72 acres of land to the AAI for construction of the new terminal building, runway and other necessary infrastructure.”
According to AAI officials, the Agartala airport handled on an average nine lakh passengers per year.
The Union Civil Aviation Ministry last year renamed the Agartala airport, earlier known as Singerbill Airport, after Tripura’s last ruler Maharaja Bir Bikram Kishore Manikya Bahadur.
Singha Roy said that the renaming of the airport came in the wake of a long-pending demand of the people of Tripura as well as the state government to rename the airport after the late Monarch as a tribute to the last ruler of the princely dynasty.
The airport is located 20 km north of the capital city and sits just along the Bangladesh border.
An informed official said that the AAI is now implementing Rs 3,400 crore projects for the up-gradation of various airports in the northeastern region.
According to the AAI North East Region Executive Director Sanjeev Jindal, Rs 720 crore project now being implemented for further up-gradation of the Imphal International Airport.