PAKYONG (SIKKIM), Sept 24 - Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday dedicated Sikkim�s first airport at Pakyong to the nation and said previous governments worked in a slow pace for ushering in development.
Modi said his government is committed to make the North East an �engine of India�s growth story�.
With the inauguration of the greenfield airport, the country currently has 100 airports, the PM said.
�Since Independence the country had only 65 airports till 2014. But in the last four years, we have built 35 airports. Earlier, the average was one airport every year, now the average is nine airports per year,� Modi said at a programme after the inauguration of the airport.
He said in the last 70 years, the country had 400 aircraft but in one year 1,000 new aircrafts were ordered by various airlines.
�Our efforts were to enable common people who wear hawai chappal to travel by hawai jahaj (aeroplane),� he said.
Modi said, �We are committed to make the North East as engine for India�s growth story. For the first time since independence, stress has been given on increasing connectivity by both air and rail, electricity in remote areas of NE and building infrastructure.�
Reiterating the slogan �Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas� (Support for All, Development for All), he said, �In several States of North East, work for connectivity, providing electricity, highways and infrastructure are taking place for the first time.�
�I myself visited NE on several occasions while the Union Ministers also visited there to speed up the developmental work,� he said.
He said the greenfield airport in Sikkim will not just improve connectivity between �landlocked and bordering� Sikkim, but will also boost tourism and other economic activities in the State. A greenfield airport is an aviation facility which has been commissioned and constructed from scratch without remodeling or renovating an existing structure.
The tourist footfall in Sikkim will increase manifold after this airport starts functioning from October 4, the Prime Minister said. �It will lead to creation of more jobs for the youth and greater economic activity as more hotels, home stays, restaurants, etc., are slated to come up,� he stated.
Modi also said initially flights will operate to Kolkata and Guwahati from Pakyong and subsequently it would be connected to other parts of the country.
Sikkim�s dream of having an airport came true nine years after the foundation stone for it was laid here, around 33 km from State capital Gangtok, in 2009.
On famed organic farming in the State, Modi said the Central Government is taking steps to encourage organic farming in the State.
�In NE we have started Mission Organic Value Development for the region. The scheme has been approved with an outlay of Rs 400 crore,� he said.
Civil Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu, who was also present on the occasion, said the dream of the people of Sikkim to have an airport of their own has now come true.
The PM had sought to bring all the State capitals in the railway map, he said. Work is on to get Sikkim into the map and it has now got its first airport, Prabhu said. � PTI