The Mysore airport, built and developed by the Airports Authority of India (AAI) at an estimated cost of Rs. 82 crore, was officially inaugurated by Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa here on Saturday, putting the city on the air map of the country.

The Chief Minister announced a subsidy of Rs. 25 crore to facilitate flight operations by airlines and said the amount would be released immediately.

An estimate of the subsidy required to make flight operations viable for private airlines was worked out when a delegation of elected representatives from the State recently met Union Minister of State for Civil Aviation Praful Patel, following which the Chief Minister agreed to extend the concession.

Underlining his Government's commitment to expand the airport, Mr. Yeddyurappa directed the district administration to start preparations for land acquisition for taking up work on the second phase of the airport. ?Land acquisition process should be set into motion within a week, and the Government will release funds towards it,? he said.

Mr. Yeddyurappa also announced that he would sanction Rs. 100 crore towards the land acquisition process if required.

He sounded optimistic about the commercial viability of the airport stating that the city draws over 25 lakh tourists annually and Infosys workforce of 15,000 drawn from different parts of the country would prefer to fly.

Earlier, Mr. Yeddyurappa arrived in a special flight from Mangalore. Mr. Patel, who was supposed to inaugurate the airport here, cut short his visit in Mangalore and returned to Delhi.

Minister for Tourism G. Janardhan Reddy was optimistic about early commencement of commercial flight operations and announced that his discussions with authorities of Air India, Kingfisher and Jet Airways in this regard were fruitful and they were only awaiting the inauguration of the airport.

?Flight operations by these airlines may start within a week,? he added.

?We demonstrated the preparedness of the Mysore airport when five chartered flights were operated to the city during Dasara last,? Mr. Reddy said.

The Minister pointed out that the expansion of the airport hinged on realigning National Highway 212, for which about 162 acres of land was required. Once land acquisition was completed and the highway realigned, the length of the existing runway could be increased to facilitate operations of Boeing and Airbus aircraft, he said.

Union Minister for Law and Justice M. Veerappa Moily compared Mysore with Jaipur and said there were similarities between the two cities and the former could be developed as a major international tourist destination if adequate infrastructure and amenities were provided.

He said the Union Government would provide Rs. 40,000 crore to beef up the aviation sector in the country and the State governments should make use of it by taking up airport development works.

Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Assembly Siddaramaiah, who had earlier urged the Chief Minister to announce a subsidy for private airline operators, said it should be announced in the supplementary budget and the Opposition parties would support it.

A.H. Vishwanath, MP, said Dasara would be the springboard for promoting tourism and Mysore, and called for conceiving new tourism packages and circuits, including Mysore-Madikeri and Chamarajanagar.

Minister for Urban Development S. Suresh Kumar, who is also in charge of Mysore district, senior officials from the AAI, elected representatives and a cross-section of stakeholders were present.

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