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NEW DELHI : As many as 20 states and Union territories (UTs) are yet to complete the transfer of land at 52 airports operated by public sector undertaking Airports Authority of India (AAI), posing a challenge to the growth of the country’s aviation sector.

Only 4,897.65 acres of the total 20,099.28 acres of land required to develop these airports have been made available by state governments to AAI, minister of state (civil aviation) V.K. Singh informed the Rajya Sabha recently.

These airports are located mostly in tier-2 and tier-3 towns and cities in states such as Assam, Bihar, Goa, Gujarat, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Nagaland, Odisha, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh, where the state governments are yet to allocate a large portion of land required for airport projects.

Land for development of airports is to be provided by state governments free of cost and free from all encumbrances, according to the National Civil Aviation Policy 2016. However, in most cases, state governments are yet to do so.

The delay in the allocation of land by state governments towards airport projects comes at a time when the central government hopes to strengthen the regional connectivity scheme (RCS) to connect smaller towns and cities.

“RCS has been successful only in a handful of routes that have enough demand to stimulate fares. In some regional airports, infrastructure is a problem, while demand is a problem in others," said a senior official at a low-cost airline, which operates several flights under the RCS scheme.

For the regional programme to work, the government needs to create a hub-and-spoke arrangement between the metros and smaller Indian cities with the help of national carrier Air India, which would have helped even private airlines. However, cash-strapped Air India has not been able to establish such a network and state governments have delayed releasing land for airport projects in smaller towns and cities, said another airline executive.

The Assam government is yet to allocate 177 acres for the expansion of Guwahati airport. It is also yet to allocate 84 acres and 50 acres for Lilabari and Jorhat airports, and allocated 8.50 acres of the required 78.50 acres of land for the Dibrugarh airport.

The Bihar government has allotted only 16.50 acres of the required 49.50 acres for Patna airport, 27.23 acres of the required 212.76 acres at Gaya airport, 108 acres of the allotted 307.50 acres at Bihta airport, and nothing for the Purnia and Darbhanga airports, for which AAI estimates an allocation of 51 acres and 78 acres, respectively, according to data submitted by Singh to the Rajya Sabha.

The Gujarat government is yet to allocate any land for airports at Bhavnagar, Kandla, Porbandar, Surat and Vadodara. These airports need 490.36 acres, 322.85 acres, 434.50 acres, 2193.93 acres and 18.33 acres, respectively, according to AAI.

The Uttar Pradesh government is yet to release any land for airports at Ayodhya, Kushinagar, Gorakhpur and Varanasi, and has released only portions of land required for airports in Agra, Muirpur and Sarsawa.

The Rajasthan government is yet to release any land for airport developments and expansion at Kota, Jaipur, Bikaner, Jodhpur, Udaipur and Uttarlai.

The Maharashtra government is also yet to release any land for development of airports in Aurangabad, Akola, Gondia and Jalgaon.

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