Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday inaugurated a new international airport at Kushinagar in Uttar Pradesh and said the Centre has taken a number of steps to instill new energy in the aviation sector.
The new airport, built at an estimated cost of Rs 260 crore, is part of the government's endeavour to connect Buddhist pilgrimage sites around the world.
Kushinagar is the final resting place of Gautama Buddha where he is believed to have attained Mahaparinirvana after his death and is among the most important pilgrim spots for Buddhists.
After inaugurating the airport, Modi said it will boost connectivity and tourism, while also helping develop an entire economic ecosystem in the region and create new job opportunities.
He said the government’s special attention to the development of places associated with Lord Buddha and developing Kushinagar are among the top priority areas for the UP and central governments.
Referring to the recent decision to privatise Air India, Modi said the country has taken a big step related to Air India so that its aviation sector should run professionally, and convenience and safety should be given priority.
"This step will give new energy to the aviation sector of India," the prime minister said and also referred to the reforms related to the opening of defence airspace for civil use.
On the newly launched 'PM Gatishakti- National Master Plan', Modi said this will not only improve the governance, but it will also be ensured that whether it is road, rail, or plane, they support each other and increase each other's capacity.
On the UDAN scheme, he said more than 900 new routes have been approved in the last few years, out of which air service has started on more than 350.
Besides, more than 50 new airports or those which were not in service earlier have been made operational, he added.
The new Kushinagar airport's terminal building is spread across 3,600 square metres. It has been developed by the Airports Authority of India (AAI) in association with the Uttar Pradesh government.
The new terminal can handle 300 passengers during peak hours.
The airport will help in attracting more followers of Buddhism from home and abroad to Kushinagar and will enhance the development of a Buddhist theme-based circuit, according to the aviation ministry.
"Journey of Lumbini, Bodhgaya, Sarnath, Kushinagar, Shravasti, Rajgir, Sankisa and Vaishali of Buddhist circuit will be covered in lesser time," the civil aviation ministry said.
(With PTI inputs)