RANJU DODUM | 19 AUGUST, 2016
ITANAGAR: While the government establishment celebrated the reopening of the advance landing ground (ALG) in Arunachal Pradesh’s Pasighat town today as a strategic move to counter China’s growing military strength, questions are being asked as to why citizens are being denied the benefits of air connectivity.
An Indian Air Force Sukhoi-30 fighter jet today landed at Pasighat, 198 km east of capital Itanagar and around 100 km from the nearest point on the 1,080 km border it shares with China which claims much of the state as its own and is a bone of contention between the two countries’ foreign relations.
Inaugurating the ALG, Union Minister of Home Affairs, Kiren Rijiju, who is also an MP from the state, said that today’s development will provide a major fillip to India's military capabilities along its border with China. He also said that with its inauguration, the development process has started in the state which was lagging behind even after 70 years of independence. While the move certainly boosts the country’s military strength, the people of Pasighat are feeling left out.
Members of the Civilian Terminal Demand Committee, a congregation of various civil society organisations from Pasighat, today submitted a memorandum seeking a civilian terminal in the ALG premises.
As per the original agreement, the Indian Air Force was to hand over 3.70 acres of the total 76 acres of land acquired to the Airports Authority of India for civilian use.
However, sources say that the Air Force is now looking for alternative land in the town for a civilian terminal; a task that is turning out to be more difficult than it would have liked.
Reportedly, the Air Force has identified three locations as an alternative, none of which are sitting well with the people.
In one of the proposed sites, an indoor stadium is being built while a second proposed site will lead to displacement of around 37 families. The third proposed site is the playground of the Independent Golden Jubilee Government Higher Secondary School which is a 70-year old establishment.
Tobom Dai, vice-chairman of the Civilian Terminal Demand Committee, said that an ALG without a terminal for the people is “meaningless”.
Today, Rijiju said that he will meet with Civil Aviation officials soon regarding the matter.
However, the problems of the civilian population in related matters are not confined to Pasighat alone.
In Lower Subansiri district’s Ziro Valley, sections of the public are unhappy that the civilian terminal in the ALG at Ziro has not been built despite an agreement to do so.
The Apatani Youth Association (AYA) claims that the land meant for the civilian terminal has instead been used to build an officer’s mess at the ALG premise. The association said that the agreement signed between the Centre and the state must be honoured and that no extra land should be acquired for a civilian terminal.
It also claimed that the ALG’s construction has led to the “curtailing (of) fundamental rights of the people” due to official guidelines which restricts civilian movement within 900 metres of its premises.
Another rather unconventional problem that has cropped is that the ALG has caused sewage issues since it reopened in March this year.
The AYA says that the infrastructure of the ALG has severely affected the sewage system since it blocked the old drainage system. It alleged that the state government and the Air Force have repeatedly assured to build a proper drainage system but that progress is at a stalemate.
There are currently three more ALGs in the state at Mechukha, Aalo and Walong with two more at Tuting and Tawang expected to be operational by the end of the year.