Don’t judge India by airports

Don’t judge India by airports

With much chest-thumping and fanfare, T3, the new terminal at the ultra-modern Delhi International Airport, was inaugurated on Saturday. On 14 July, all international flights will start operating out of T3. On 30 and 31 July, full-service Indian airlines will. The impressive statistics of the airport have been telegraphed around the world: nine levels, three runways, 168 check-in counters, 78 aerobridges and a car park for 4,300.

It is the kind of edifice that should bring a glow to the heart of progress-minded Indians who have long been ashamed of the structure Delhi calls its international airport currently. T3, they are likely to say, more befits the world’s second fastest growing major economy that sees itself as an economic, intellectual, even military, superpower.

The new Delhi airport will join equally modern ones in Hyderabad, Mumbai and Bangalore and, as countless analysts have chorused in Sunday’s papers, make sure visitors to India get a first good impression of the country.

This newspaper is happy about that. No longer will we have to tell visitors, especially first-time business visitors who are here to invest in the Indian market or do business here, that India is better than its airports would indicate. The new airports in four important cities and, especially, T3 in New Delhi, will make redundant that task.

Still, this newspaper can’t help but point out that India and Indians now have a new task: helping visitors, especially first-time ones, cope with the vast disconnect between ultra-modern airports and cities replete with infrastructural problems: bad roads, traffic bottlenecks, frequent power cuts, inadequate garbage removal and insufficient drainage.

T3, and the new airports at Mumbai, Bangalore and Hyderabad, may have been the result of some ambitious businessmen benchmarking their efforts with the best in the world. Now India’s infrastructure and city planners would do well to benchmark their efforts with these ultra-modern airports.

Until then, maybe we should all go back to that chorus while greeting visitors: Please do not judge India by its airports.

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