The Calicut International Airport at Karipur, one of the busiest airports in the country, will be partially closed for the maintenance works commencing on May 1st, triggering apprehensions among the Gulf expatriates.
The airport will be closed down to carry out the re-carpeting works of the runway the present state of which poses danger to both the flights as well as the passengers. The authorities had said that the service can’t be resumed until the condition of the runway is improved and hence the decision for re-carpeting, which is essential for the safety of the passengers. The maintenance work if started in June, would take around 15 months to complete. The service of large aircrafts would be halted till the repair works are completed and the airport will be completely shut down from 12 noon to 8, daily for the repair during these months. While the large aircrafts are permitted for takeoff and landing only eight months after the work completion, the small flights are permitted to continue their service. The services of Saudi Arabian Airlines, Emirates Airline and Air India would be adversely affected owing to the restrictions. The closing down of the airport will badly affect the functioning of the airport, causing trouble to the passengers and hindering the cargo movement.
Incidents of cracks developing on the runway surface due to heavy monsoon, has also been reported and has left the authorities anxious. A majority of the cargo exported from the Malabar region to countries like Saudi Arabia and UAE are perishable and would therefore be badly affected. The partial closing of the airport coincides with the commencement of the busy ‘Gulf season’ starting from mid-June to September and also the summer vacations, Umrah, Eid-ul-fitr, Onam and Haj period. The Keralites who constitute the majority of the Indian expatriates in the Gulf, are from Malabar region and therefore would disrupt the air travel to and fro, affecting lakhs of migrants. The economic ramifications are also huge. Various NRI associations in the Gulf have called for a review of the decision by the Airports Authority of India. But neither the Chief Minister nor the concerned authorities have appeared to give any thoughts to these aspects or conducted any study.
The Airport Authority Assistant Director T.S.Chandramouli, had investigated the matter two years ago following which the Centre had allotted Rs 40 crore for the repair works. The expert committee reports had cited heavy rain and corruption related to the construction works as the reasons for obstructing the smooth functioning of large flights. The corruption allegations related to the maintenance works carried out by a Delhi based company were brought to light by the CBI prompting the Airport Authority of India to entrust the Central Road Research Institute to study the matter and submit a report. Following this report, the decision for re-carpeting the runway was made. Funds have also been allotted for the purpose. The government should ensure a speedy completion of the maintenance work and at the same time take appropriate steps to provide alternate facilities and services to the passengers as well as for the smooth functioning of cargo movement.