Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday inaugurated the swanky, world-class Terminal 3 of the Indira Gandhi International Airport in the National Capital, saying it signalled the arrival of new India, committed to join the ranks of modern, industrialised nations of the world. .

Hailing the new terminal as exemplifying India’s resolve to bridge fast enough the infrastructure deficit in the country, Dr. Singh said T3, built in just 37 months at a cost of about Rs. 10,000 crore, has established new global benchmarks.

Yet another reason for satisfaction, the Prime Minister said, was that it “proves the success of the Public-Private Partnership model in execution of large infrastructure project.”

Sprawling over an area of 5.4 million square feet, the new terminal building is said to be the world’s sixth largest. Though spanking new and modern airports in Bangalore and Hyderabad have already been opened, the IGI airport at Delhi dwarfs both of them.

The Prime Minister unveiled a plaque to mark the formal inauguration of the new terminal in the presence of United Progressive Alliance chairperson and Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel, Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit and G.M. Rao, Chairman of the GMR group that led the international consortium which built the terminal. While international operations from T3 will begin from July 14, domestic operations will start from July 31.

While stressing upon the need to rapidly improve the physical infrastructure where the country has lagged behind, Dr. Singh hoped to see many successful projects on the lines of IGI airport’s magnificent terminal in future. “This will be in keeping with our ambition, our aspirations and our new found confidence in recent years,’’ he said amid rounds of applause.

Describing the aviation sector as vital to India’s sustained economic growth, he said that it plays a major role in generating tourist flow, accelerating industrial development, creating new jobs and integrating the country.

Dr. Singh said that it was estimated that India’s aviation sector has the potential to absorb up to $120 billion of investment by 2020. Analysts predict that domestic traffic could reach 160 to 180 million and international traffic in excess of 50 million by 2020, he pointed out.

“In a span of a few years, India has become the 9th largest aviation market in the world. We now have 10 scheduled airlines operating in our country, compared to two in 1990. In the same period, the scheduled aircraft deployed by the Indian carriers has gone up four times, from 100 to about 400,” the Prime Minister said.

Emphasising the need to create safe, secure efficient and environment friendly systems conducive to healthy growth of civil aviation sector, the Prime Minister said the regulatory and policy framework also needs to be aligned with the needs of the civil aviation industry to encourage serious investment. Towards achieving these goals, he said, the government has strengthened the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) and set up the Airport Economic Regulatory Authority (AERA).

Pointing out that Delhi airport has improved its rank sharply in terms of Air Service Quality (ASQ) performance from 101 in 2007 to 21 in 2010, Dr. Singh expressed the hope that after the opening of T-3 the airport would shortly rank within the first 10 airports of the world.

Praising the impressive new terminal building, Ms. Gandhi said that quality was not something to be reserved for prestigious projects but should become “part and parcel of our design process for all our public projects including housing, schools, hospitals and other services.”

“Providing rural and urban infrastructure efficiently and at the same time achieving high standards must remain our goal,” she said while expressing satisfaction that the new terminal was not only based on “green principles” but was also easily accessible to the aged and physically challenged persons.

Mr. Patel said the new terminal demonstrated that public-private-partnership could work to the advantage of the nation and all stakeholders. He said that like Delhi Metro, the new T3 terminal too was the “pride of entire India.”

Mr. Patel also stressed upon the need for having a second airport at Mumbai urgently as the existing one was on the verge of reaching the “saturation point.”

“Mumbai, our financial capital, needs to have a second airport fast as the current airport is coming to a saturation point. Equal amount of support is required on the (aviation) infrastructure front,” he said.

Mr. Patel has already expressed his unhappiness over the delay in getting clearance to the Navi Mumbai project from the Environment Ministry. The project was approved by the Cabinet in May 2007 through the public-private partnership mode.

He said that Airports Authority of India (AAI), which has undertaken the modernisation of 35 non-metro airports, would complete the renovation of terminals by next year and within next few days the renovated terminal building of Ahmedabad would be opened. He said that revamped and modernised Chennai and Kolkata airport terminals would be opened by next year.

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