In a huge boost to India’s aviation sector, Sikkim is set to get its first airport as Pakyong airport in Sikkim is set to become India’s 100th functional airport. The airport built at a cost of Rs. 350 crores at an altitude of about 4,700 feet is located at a distance of 30 km from the state capital of Gangtok. Minister of State for Civil Aviation, Jayant Sinha stated that the airport will be commissioned in June. Till now Sikkim was the only state in India which did not have an airport. However, as aviation services have reached the hilly state, India has achieved air connectivity for all states. Spice Jet has already been granted permission to operate on Kolkata-Pakyong route once the airport becomes functional under the civil aviation ministry’s civil aviation scheme.
The airport once operational will help in increasing the tourist footfall in Sikkim. Currently, tourists travelling to the state have to land at Bagdogra and then travel for more than four hours in order to reach Gangtok. The state carries huge significance for India especially because of how India went to a war in that region with China in 1962. It shares a sensitive border with China, which was again involved in the Dokhlam stand-off at the tri-junction with China. In such circumstances, India does not have an option but to bring about rapid infrastructure development in region to assert its sovereignty. It is also obvious that keeping the people living in the border areas in confidence is also necessary to maintain efficiency in collection of intelligence inputs. In light of such circumstances this airport carries more than just economic significance. Infrastructure development and increased connectivity in the state is therefore not just an economic incentive but a strategic compulsion.
This is a major shot in the arm for the ambitious “Ude Desh ka Aam Naagrik” regional connectivity scheme (UDAN-RCS), which is a regional airport development and “regional connectivity scheme”. The idea is to provide access of air travel to the common citizens of the country. The idea behind the scheme is to make sure that air travel is no longer a luxury limited to a select few and the prosperous metropolitan regions. This ambitious scheme announced by the Modi government is a part of the larger efforts made by the government to develop high quality infrastructure.
The scheme has yielded great results for the government as a total of twenty-five airports have already been added under the regional connectivity scheme. Airport Authority of India chairman, Guruprasad Mohapatra has stated that the airports which will be added on the aviation map of India by the month of June are Jamshedpur, Cooch Behar, Durgapur, Kullu and Pantnagar. 13 airports are undergoing the process of upgrades under the ambitious scheme. Apart from this, 23 airports and helipads are going to handle helicopter operations under the scheme.