It is time to resolve the issues pertaining to the naming of the international airport in Mohali. The argument over the improvement of Chandigarh airport, has been on for more than a decade. The small civil airport at the Air Force Station needed to be expanded. Contracts were given for modest changes, but the doings of the contractor, delayed it for many years. Work was also stopped for a long time over a quarrel between the contractor and the government.
In the meanwhile, lobbying started for an international airport. That issue also took its own time. Elsewhere in India, be it the East, West, North or South, a number of international airports came up.
Amritsar International Airport was an airport in name only. The privatization of the New Delhi airport inhibit Amritsar. It is well known that half the passengers of Delhi come from the Punjab on their way to the West, the Middle East, Newzealand and Australia. The owners of Delhi Airport and the Tourism Industry in Delhi insisted that the Punjab passengers suffer every hardship for the economic benefit of the Capital. Amritsar-Singapore flights were stopped. Direct flights to the UK, Canada and America were not allowed.
Punjab has great potential and it tried to export fruits, vegetables and flowers. All agro-exports clearances were held in a tight control in Delhi. The prime ministers have been known to take an active interest in promoting development in their home states.
Chandigarh will have an international airport. The Punjab government took a positive step by giving 300 acres of land free, in order to get the international terminal in Punjab, just across the Chandigarh boundary. Now that the airport has been initiate a few points need clear and positive resolution.
The second point is about the name of the airport. When the issue was taken up in the last government, Punjab and Haryana had indulged in a petty debate. One point was finally settled. Both states agreed that the airport must be named after Shaheed Bhagat Singh. However, a niggle rose, over whether it should be stated to be in Chandigarh or Mohali. In the last government this was not resolved and the issue continues to fester. Punjab argues that it should be named after Mohali. Haryana demurs, and the Centre continues to look away.
It is true that the international terminal is on the Punjab-gifted land. The village of Mohali disappeared 25 years ago in the expansion of the city. Giani Zail Singh long ago renamed it as Sahibzada Ajit Singh Nagar. The Sahibzada made a supreme sacrifice close to this township. The name failed to take off, because no name can be so long. The Punjab Government itself started writing, SAS Nagar (Mohali). It occurred to me many years back that SAS Nagar should be dropped, and the town should be named as Ajitgarh.
Sometime back Ajitgarh was officially accepted by the Government of India, and so reported in the Punjab press. All clearances for such exports should be given on the spot in Chandigarh and Amritsar. These exports will recover Punjab’s expenditure on the international terminal. An international airport must recognisably link with the name of a well-known city. The truth is that Chandigarh is, and will continue to be on the world map, for achievements in city planning in the 20th century.