In overcrowded airport, Haj terminal remains unused for 10 months

By Sanjay Singh, IANS,

New Delhi : India’s aviation regulator and the private developer in charge of modernising the international airport here seem to have washed their hands off a plan to make better use of the upgraded Haj terminal for the 10 months it lies unused every year.

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While the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) says the developer has to take a decision as to how it intended to utilise the Haj terminal in the off-season, the latter – Delhi International Airport Ltd (DIAL) – says it is yet to give the issue a thought.

The Haj terminal of the Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA) is currently being used exclusively for the annual pilgrimage to Makkah and Medina, the holiest cities of Islam in Saudi Arabia.

The terminal, which came into existence in December 1999, has recently been given a major facelift. Operations at the upgraded terminal began Oct 30 and pilgrims will be using it till the end of December.

After that, the terminal will remain unused for 10 months till the pilgrims begin to use it again next year from around the end of October. The multi-use plan was to use the terminal during this period, especially to accommodate the increasing passenger load at the existing international terminal.

The IGIA is currently straining at the seams as it was built to cater to 12 million passengers a year, while the current flow at 24 million passengers is double that.
The new terminal-3, which would be an integrated terminal with a handling capacity of 34 million passengers, will be ready only by 2010.

For this reason, in March this year, a civil aviation ministry team led by the ministry’s joint secretary K.N. Srivastava had asked DIAL to submit a detailed plan for better utilisation of the terminal during the months when it is not used by the pilgrims.

In response, the GMR-led DIAL asked the DGCA and airlines to accommodate regular passengers at the Haj terminal to take the load off the existing terminals.

DIAL managing director Kiran Kumar Grandhi had also stated that the upgraded Haj terminal would be used for international operations from next January.

But now, DIAL too seems to have given up this plan. “We have not given a serious thought to it,” Arun Behl, chief of the IGI airport terminal and a DIAL official, told IANS.

The industry regulator does not seem to have taken a decision either. “It is DIAL which has to decide what it wants to do with the Haj terminal,” said Kanu Gohain, the DGCA director general.

An official of the Airports Authority of India (AAI) told IANS on condition of anonymity that the government was hesitant to use the Haj terminal for international operations owing to political compulsions.

“It (Haj terminal) is an exclusive terminal in India. Elections are nearing and so the government is not willing to take a decision regarding multi-use of the terminal,” said the AAI official.

But Gohain said there was nothing political about the issue.

Mohammed Moassam Ahmed, a member of the All India Haj Committee and chief coordinator of the Haj operations for Delhi, said it was up to the government’s discretion how the terminal would be used when the pilgrims were not using it.