Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday inaugurated Sikkim’s first airport. The Pakyong airport is situated about 30 km from capital Gangtok.
Till now, the landlocked state depended solely on a highway to connect to the rest of the country as it had no rail or flight connectivity. The nearest airport was in West Bengal’s Bagdogra, about 125 km away from Sikkim.
Modi said this was India’s 100th operational airport, according to the Hindustan Times. “It’s a century for the country,” he said. The prime minister claimed his government had built nine airports in the last year, but earlier governments built, on average, one airport a year.
“Work is progressing at high pace to strengthen both, infrastructural and emotional connectivity, to Sikkim and North East,” he said. “In all of north-eastern states, a lot of development has taken place for the first time – from air to rail connectivity, to even electricity. Our govt is moving on the route of ‘sabka saath, sabka vikas’.”
He added: “Development will reach new heights, and so will Sikkim.”
The airport was built by the Airports Authority of India at a cost of Rs 605.59 crore, NDTV reported. The airport is spread over 201 acres and is located 4,500 feet above sea level, on a hill about 2 km above Pakyong village.
Sikkim Chief Minister Pawan Chamling and Civil Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu were also present at the inauguration event on Monday. Chamling said the inauguration was a “historic event”.
Prabhu said the airport is Modi’s gift to Sikkim. “The project will benefit the people of Sikkim,” Prabhu said. “It will increase tourism in the state and boost employment in Sikkim.”
He claimed the government will build 100 more airports in the next 10 to 15 years.
Commercial flights from Pakyong will begin on October 4, Airport Director R Manjunatha said.