Thursday, September 11, 2008

Prospects for Kannur airport brighten

State may be allowed to set it up without two runways
STATE MATTERS: Minister for Home and Tourism Kodiyeri Balakrishnan calls on Union Minister for Tourism Ambika Soni in New Delhi on Wednesday.

NEW DELHI: The Centre is willing to make an exception for Kerala in the stipulation that all new airports of the country should have a second runway. An assurance to this effect was given to Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan by Union Minister of State for Civil Aviation Praful Patel on Wednesday at a meeting here.

Briefing mediapersons later, Mr. Balakrishnan said Mr. Patel assured him that the Kannur airport proposal would be cleared once the technical issues were sorted out. Also, given the problems the State Government was facing in acquiring land for the project, the Centre would waive the second runway clause.

Asked whether the new airport would be developed on the Nedumbassery model or on a build-operate-transfer basis, the Minister said a decision would be taken at the appropriate time. On the proposal to upgrade Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikode airports, Mr. Patel said he would visit the State soon to finalise the plans.

Aid to modernise police

On his maiden visit to the capital after assuming office, Mr. Balakrishnan met six other Union Ministers during his two-day stay, which was primarily to attend the meeting of Chief Ministers called by the Prime Minister to discuss internal security. Since the Home portfolio is not with the Chief Minister, the State was represented by Mr. Balakrishnan.

At his one-to-one meeting with Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil, Mr. Balakrishnan was promised central assistance to modernise the police and Fire and Rescue Services and provide better jail facilities. Also, the State made a plea for locating the proposed marine police academy in Kerala. At his meeting with Union Environment and Forests Minister A. Raja, Mr. Balakrishnan secured a positive response to the State's demand for relaxation in the Coastal Regulation Zone Act.

Mr. Balakrishnan also met Railway Minister Lalu Prasad and sought Thalassery-Mysore and Nanjankode-Nilamboor railway lines to promote tourism in the Malabar region. However, Mr. Prasad told him that it could be considered only if the State was willing to meet half the cost.

Meets Ambika Soni

Mr. Balakrishnan made a pitch for setting up an international hospitality management institute with Union Tourism and Culture Minister Ambika Soni. Also, according to him, the Centre should increase its assistance of Rs.5 crore per designated tourist destination to Rs.50 crore.

He met Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar and finalised details of his forthcoming visit to Kerala to make an on-the-spot study of farmer suicides in the State. On Tuesday, Mr. Balakrishnan met Union Surface Transport Minister T.R. Baalu and asked for a Manjeswaram-Parassala water transport system.

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