TAMIL NADU

Goa Congress to take delegation to meet Prime Minister on airport issue

Special Correspondent

PANAJI: Goa Pradesh Congress Committee president Ravi Naik has decided to lead a delegation to New Delhi to meet the Central leaders, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, to resolve the controversy regarding the likely closure of Dabolim airport for civilian traffic once the proposed Mopa airport was commissioned.

Mr. Ravi Naik told The Hindu on Thursday at the Congress House that lack of clarity over the issue had led to confusion and the people are upset over it. Referring to the reply given to the MP, Shantaram Naik, by Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel, Mr. Ravi Naik said, "The Minister says it may be closed."

To decide the composition of the delegation, Mr. Ravi Naik has convened a joint meeting of the Pradesh Committee, the party legislative wing, Ministers and MPs on December 6. While the State Cabinet recommended last week that the status of the Dabolim airport should continue even after the proposed Mopa airport was commissioned, the reply given by the Minister to Mr. Shantaram Naik has ostensibly vindicated the stand taken by the South Goa MP Churchill Alemao. Knowing Mr. Alemao's political ability to divide the party over the issue, the Goa Congress Pradesh Committee president has taken the initiative to contain the damage. Mr. Ravi Naik said he would take the delegation to the party President Sonia Gandhi and meet other leaders, including the Civil Aviation Minister.

The Goa's Transport Ministry issued a clarification on Wednesday stating there was no proposal to close down the Dabolim airport. It has been clarified that the Union Civil Aviation Minister's statement was based on the policy framework for setting up Greenfield airports existing at the time the Cabinet decision was taken.