‘Airport should be de-linked from Navy’

Members of the Visakhapatnam Air Travellers’ Association (VATA) have threatened to go on hunger strike for a day anytime after August 15 if the Navy fails to give clearance for 24 x 7 operations at INS Dega (airport) immediately.

Coming down heavily on the Navy for raising objections for increasing the watch hours at the airport, the core committee members of VATA said, “If required the airport should be brought out of the control of Navy. Let the Navy develop its own airport.”

VATA threatened to organise a walk from the Circuit House to the quarters of Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief of Eastern Naval Command and stage a hunger strike near the quarters as well as at INS Dega.

The members said despite concerted efforts by Union Minister of State for Human Resource Development D. Purandeswari and State Minister for Infrastructure and Investment Ganta Srinivasa Rao, due to objections by the Navy, the launch of more international flights was getting delayed. At present, one flight is operated from the city to Dubai. The proposal for introduction of flights to Singapore, Bangkok, Colombo, and other international destinations has hit a roadblock due to objections from the Navy.

VATA members Ch. Ramakotaiah, K. Kumar Raja, O. Naresh Kumar, and P. Vishnu Kumar Raju said on Sunday that people, by and large, were unhappy over the inordinate delay in operation of 24 x 7 flights. Even extension of airport timings by three hours a week had not been confirmed by the Navy. VATA members said the delay in giving clearances by the Navy was tarnishing the reputation of Visakhapatnam as an International destination.

“We are receiving many requests from the citizens of Visakhapatnam and from various associations urging us to inform appropriate authorities that the control of the Navy on the airport should be removed and that the Navy should have its own airport base at any suitable location,” they stated.

VATA sought the support of political parties for making the protest programme a success if the State and Central government failed to solve the problem.

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