Imphal International Airport : How International?

162

Retd Colonel IS Chanam

The day was Thursday 4 May 2017. My son who came to visit aging parents was taking Indigo flight of 1520 hours from Imphal Airport to Calcutta and beyond.

His aged mother who crossed 70 several years ago was determined to see off her son at airport. My remonstrance against her going to Imphal airport explaining that there was no sitting arrangement for her in the airport while waiting for her son to book luggage, pass through security check and finally getting airborne, fell on deaf ears. She underwent the agony of standing on the pavement in the airport compound under hot sun with no sitting arrangement to rest tired legs, for over two hours that day. The same condition is for all, be it younger men, women or children.

Pictures show a group of people taking shelter from the heat under a low spreading tree. Some ladies rest their tired legs by sitting on the floor at the foot of the hedge. Some people make use of luggage trolley to sit on and relieve tiredness of legs due to standing for long duration. Most women with children sit on the laid bricks at the foot of hedge row. It is a pitiable sight.

How the name ‘Imphal International Airport” came into existence? Is it because the number of flights has increased to about 65 per week and passenger handling per day hassoared to about 3000 per day, incoming and outgoing combined? Or, is it because the higher officials work from air conditioned offices inside the airport building, while the citizen who come to receive or see off passengers stand on their two feet under the hot sun or under the rains?
This airport had seen great days in the past. It had handled much more flights and much more loads in its glorious years of 2nd World War. The British Allied forces fought off the Japanese invasion of India from this airfield. Innumerable aeroplanes had plied on this airfield, flying in food and medicines, weapons and ammunition, fighting soldiers and equipment while flying out thesick and the wounded. This airfield occupies a place of honour in military history.During its glorious years it was named simply as ‘Imphal Airfield’. Now it is unable even to provide a simple sitting arrangement for thecitizens who come to the airport, but it is named as “Imphal International Airport’!! The name is over high-sounding as compared to its performance.

Till about 2008 there existed a space inside the airport building where the public were provided sitting arrangement. Tea-coffee and snacks stalls too existed there. May be the drawing of the building caters for sitting place for the public. Someone who came on posting from outside the state, with pre-conceived idea that Imphal was a very unsafe place, must have influenced into doing away with that space and prohibited the public from entering the airport building. Just because of the ‘Disturbed Area’ tag, any high official can impose his will in the name of ‘security’.Now the public has the open pavement outside the building, under the sun and the rains, to stand on their two feet for the entire stay in the airport and that too, 20 to 40 feet away from where the gun slinging security personnel stand, for which a steel pipe barricade has been erected.

It has been learnt that an ‘Airport Advisory Council’ exists membered by politician VIPs besides some others. Is this ‘Advisory Council’ only on paper or is functional? If functional, is their advice binding on the airport authority? Howcome this ‘Big Lapse” of non- provision of sitting arrangement was not noticed by the ‘Airport Advisory Council’?

There is sufficient space inside the airport building to arrange sitting place for the public, if it can be reconsidered. To convenience the airport staff in carrying out their tasks unhindered, a suitable wire-netting wall can be erected to separate out the public. Alternatively, some sheds may be constructed in the open space wherein sitting arrangement, tea-coffee stall, snacks stall and drinking water stall may be housed.

The attention of the state government is solicited on this issue. The airport authority may kindly be asked to create above mentioned facilities by a specific date/month/year. In case of non-compliance the issue may please be raised with the Aviation Ministry.
Till then the title ‘International’ in Imphal International Airport is out of place.

Source: The Sangai Express

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