KNOWN AND UNKNOWN FACTS
With the inauguration of the Kannur International airport, Kannur, one of the northern districts in Kerala, being the fourth one, the first three being at Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi, Kozhikode, a similarity that they share with Tamil Nadu who already have 4 International airports at Chennai, Coimbatore, Madurai and Trichy. It was inaugurated by Sri. Suresh Prabhu Union Minister of Civil Aviation, Sri. Pinarayi Vijayan, Chief Minister of Kerala on 9th December 2018. The Kannur International airport is spread about, in 2330 acres of land. The 95000 sq. metres terminal building is the eighth largest in the world and has been equipped with all the state-of-the-art facilities. It will also have 4000 m runway the fourth longest in the country while the other are in Delhi (4430), Hyderabad (4260) and Bengaluru (4120).
The first flight from the Kannur International Airport, an Air India Express Boeing 737-800 to Abu Dhabi was flagged off by the Chief Guests. The excitement was palpable both on the ground and on the flight as there were celebrations all around. The crew comprising of Malayali’s and some of the passengers even recited the “mappilappattu” which are essentially folk songs, with melody. Go Air has announced direct flights from Kannur to Bengaluru (6 times weekly), Hyderabad (4 times weekly), Chennai (3 times weekly). Air India Express will operate flights from Kannur to Riyadh, Doha in addition to Abu Dhabi. This airport is equipped to handle 2000 passengers at any given time. It will have parking bays for 14 Code E aircraft or 20 Code C aircraft. With a large Malayali population working overseas, this airport has become a huge relief to many of them who can now opt to fly out of the Kannur airport and save on travel time.
In February 2016, the first trial flight a DORNIER DO -228 aircraft of the Indian Air Force landed at the airport and was manned by Sri. Raghunath Nambiar, a Kannur native. Two years hence, it will be Raghunath Nambiar’s son Sri Ashwin Nambiar will be the first officer of the first domestic flight landing in Kannur. Jubilant Ashwin said, “It is a proud occasion for him and everyone else in his family. He is a third generation pilot, with his late grandfather was a pilot in the Air Force. His father is currently the Eastern Air Commander of the Indian Air Force, posted in shillong, has also been a pilot himself. If his grandfather had been alive he would have been extremely proud of him and he is looking forward to the first landing at Kannur as a pilot”.
Immediately after the opening of the airport Kerala’s LDF leaders, family members flew on Government expense. Kerala Government splurged Rs.2.28 lakh, tax payers’ money, to fly down leaders of the ruling LDF and their family members from Kannur to Capital, Thiruvananthapuram after the inauguration of the Kannur International Airport on Sunday. Kerala Government-run Overseas Development and Employment Promotion Consultants (ODEPC) arranged for the travel of all the CPI(M) leaders and their family, including CPI(M) Kerala Secretary, Sri. Kodiyeri Balakrishnan and his family members. According to reports, ODEPC had booked tickets for 63 members on the GoAir flight that flew 190 passengers in total, including the crew. It is learnt that the mass-booking was done on last Thursday.
This move has raised many eyebrows as the extravagant expense comes at a time when Kerala is recuperating from the August Deluge. They took the first flight to Thiruvananthapuram at 3PM after the grand inauguration of the airport. This untimely expense has been seen as a bad mark on the State Government which is on austerity mode after the August floods. The massive floods caused loss of lives and property worth Rs.31000 crores as per studies conducted by the World Bank and the United Nations. The Kerala Government has been on a mission to raise funds from across the world to rebuild the State.
The amount Rs.2.28 lakhs might be considered to be a small amount compared to what Kerala is looking to raise, but there is no reason to justify an unwanted expense on the Government Exchequer, especially when the State Government was at the receiving end for forcing Government Employees to forego a month’s salary to fund development post the August Floods. It is to be noted that the Kerala Government had invited criticism for mismanagement of Ockhi relief fund earlier this year.
At this time of need, any State Government should be careful on what they are spending, because every penny spent, matters to the exchequer. With the State Employees asked to forego one month’s salary, there is no dire need to spend on air travel, that too within Kerala, when they all could have travelled by train. Fighting against Capitalism and Capitalists being their very ideology where can we account this extravagant air travel expenditure (courtesy tax payers’ monies) when the State is just on its knees, limping back to normalcy. Isn’t it just the time, to be frugal and stringent on the purse strings Sri. Pinarayi Vijayan and his ideological allies?
- VIJAYASHREE RAMESH, CHENNAI BASED ADVOCATE