By: Mohit Behl
Dharamsala: It would not be wrong to call the Dharamsala airport building at Gaggal a rain-shelter as it hardly shows any signs of being an airport. So it’s hardly surprising to find villagers squatting around to rest and chat a bit after working in the fields around. No wonder, no one is complaining – not the villagers at least – as it’s hardly considered an airport.
For those unfortunate ones who land up here there’s no visitor’s lounge, not even chairs for people coming to see off /receive their relatives/friends. Drinking water is available at such a distance that if one decides to go after it, it’s not sure he or she will find the way back. And the passengers who fly from here and have to wait, also suffer the torture as there is no air conditioning system. The private cafeteria (allegedly owner by a MLA) doesn’t have anything much to offer; there is no tourist help counter, nothing to kill time (as usually flights are delayed or cancelled), no calling booth, and so on.
As far as security is concerned, the Himachal Pradesh police personnel deployed at the airport watch helplessly as supporters of VIPs from this region storm their way inside the arrival departure lounge and also sneak into VIP room without a mandatory security check. The air traffic control building is unmanned, meaning anybody can sneak in anytime and take hostage the whole administrative block.
Almost all airports in India have been handed over to CISF for security, except for this one, just because of our government is unwilling to pursue this matter.
Lastly, there is only one airline flying from here -Kingfisher Red. As discussed in one of the previous articles, people flying from here have to shell exorbitantly as ticket prices are as high as Rs 9,800 for the Delhi-Dharamsala flight, whereas the tickets from Pathankot and Ludhiana for are available for as low as Rs 2,100 with a maximum limit of 4,500.
All these factors point to one thing that our politicians lack will to do anything beneficial for the state. While Punjab was able to force Air India to launch air service from Ludhiana to Delhi at such a short notice, within months of expansion of the airport, if we see the case of Dharamsala airport, the state carrier, after stopping operations from here, has still been making test flights for two years. Even MDLR was operating from here but left, while Go Air & Spice expressed willingness but did not turn up.
Under these circumstances, it is not hard to foresee the future of tourism industry in the state.