The strange case of missing lamps on Gaya hills

Pratim Ranjan Bose Kolkata May 17 | Updated on January 23, 2018 Published on May 17, 2015


Airport can’t handle night landings as guiding lamps are stolen

The Airports Authority of India (AAI) has blamed the Nitish Kumar government for the failure to operate night landing facilities at Gaya international airport in Bihar for nearly a decade.

Gaya receives over one million foreign tourists a year. In the peak season, there are daily flights from Colombo, Bangkok, and Yangon. It also receives chartered carriers from Japan and other countries.

The traffic is exceptionally high from Myanmar. Between October and March, Gaya airport receives nearly two flights a day from Yangon. The traffic reduces to half in the summer months.

In a report (The mystery of Gaya airport) on April 30, Business Line pointed out that the international travellers are often faced with major inconveniences, as the night-landing facility remains perennially inoperative and flights are diverted to Kolkata at slightest disruption of schedule.

The reason cited is too simplistic to believe. As per regulatory guidelines, the airport should have guiding lights atop the five hillocks surrounding the airport. But the lamps always get stolen!

Passing the buck

In a communication dated May 11, Samar Kumar Biswas, Airport Director of Gaya, blamed the Bihar government for failing to prevent theft of lights. Biswas had earlier refused to comment on the issue.

According to the communication (titled ‘rejoinder’), lights were installed by AAI on at least four occasions since 2008. The State government merely appointed Home Guards (unarmed casual workers hired at a pittance) for protection of the equipment that was so crucial for the airport and its users.

Biswas says the corrective action was limited to police complaints (FIRs) lodged by Home Guards. “It is very clear that AAI cannot guard the lamps on hilltops,” he said.

District Collector Sanjay Kumar Agarwal is not convinced the AAI tried to find a permanent solution to the issue.

“AAI spends crores for the airport but they wouldn’t spend anything for the security of their equipment atop the hills. They didn’t even build shelters for the security guards,” Agarwal said.

Airline operators and State administration suspect a “possible nexus” in the fiasco. “Night landing will entail additional responsibilities for the airport authority and the central security forces who now happily go home at sundown,” a senior official of a major airline told Business Line.

Published on May 17, 2015
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