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#Ghostly: Is deserted Jaisalmer Airport a symbol of India’s directionless infra plans?

The Jaisalmer airport in which the Indian government invested $17 million (£11 million) today stands empty.

Even after two and a half years of completion there is no sign of a single passenger.

The situation begs the question if Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made investment in infrastructure a priority without having a clear strategy.

In a bid to improve the infrastructure drive to fuel growth India has spent $50 million since 2009 on eight airports which do not have scheduled flights.

“The AAI (Airports Authority of India) has invested in some airports without any economic logic,” said Kapil Kaul, the Delhi-based chief executive of consultancy Centre for Aviation (CAPA).

“Every state government wants to have a big airport, but you have to look at it from a national perspective and say where do we need airports, where is the demand and growth coming from?” he adds.

“They (the government) need to realise it’s not a case of ‘build the airport and we will come’,” said Sanjiv Kapoor, chief operating officer of SpiceJet Ltd.

This is slowing down the ability of airlines to expand in a vast country where support for economic growth is required.

The concept of building regional airports was introduced by the previous government to connect distant cities across the vast sub-continent.

In continuation with Modi’s 200 airport growth plan, on Tuesday Modi pledged 27 billion rupees (£270 million) for four new airports in the less developed state of Bihar, which holds an important election this year.

According to official data, not a single flight has been scheduled at more than half of the 100-odd domestic-only airports being operated by AAI.

There is a compelling argument to expand airport capacity.

Passenger numbers in India grew 20 percent a year to 38.8 million in the first half of 2015.  This has left many of India’s major airports saturated.

However, the government’s plans to invest in expanding the major hubs has stalled due to a lack of private takers, meaning that airlines are unable to feed extra traffic into smaller airports like Jaisalmer.

It’s so bad that Jaisalmer’s chief engineer, S.K Singh, said: “You should come here on your own.  It’s scary”.



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