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Naming airports always a tricky issue in India

D P Satish dp_satish

Updated: January 9, 2016, 4:28 PM IST
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Naming airports always a tricky issue in India
A Government of India proposal not to name airports after any public personalities and just name them after the nearest city has received both praise and flak.
New Delhi: A Government of India proposal not to name airports after any public personalities and just name them after the nearest city has received both praise and flak. Those in favour of not naming airports after personalities argue that it will end unnecessary controversies in a highly politicised society like India. Those who oppose the move argue that not naming airports after personalities is not a wise decision and one can’t cut off the nose just because he or she got cold.

However, it is a fact that naming airports has always been a very tricky issue in India. When Bengaluru got its brand new International Airport in early 2008, it was just called Bengaluru International Airport. Various political parties and organisations demanded that the airport should be named after a legendary Kannadiga personality. Some argued that it should be named after the 12th century social reformer Basaveshwara. The others proposed the names of Tipu Sultan, the founder of Bengaluru city Kempe Gowda and Engineer par excellence Sir M Veshweshwaraiah. Finally the state government decided to name it after Kempe Gowda and sent it to the Union Government. The Union Government cleared it and the airport was formally named after Kempe Gowda two years ago. Recently, noted writer Girish Karnad made a controversial remark that it should be named after Tipu Sultan, the ruler of Mysore. It met with strong opposition and Karnad was forced to withdraw his comments.

When Hyderabad International Airport was opened in mid-2008, then Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Dr YS Rajashekhara Reddy named it after former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi. The main opposition TDP opposed the move demanding that it should be named after Telugu cinema icon and former chief minister NT Rama Rao. Now the domestic terminal of the airport is called NTR terminal.

The Chennai airport has two names. The domestic terminal is called K Kamaraj airport and the International terminal is called C N Annadurai airport.

When the AB Vajpayee government named Port Blair airport in Andaman & Nicobar islands after freedom fighter and RSS icon Vir Savarkar, the Congress and the Communists had vehemently opposed that move. Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar even threatened to personally remove the board.

Naming airports after local or national leaders has been an international practice. The New York airport is named after the assassinated President John F Kennedy and popularly known as just JFK. The busiest airport in the World, Chicago airport is named after Lieutenant Commander Edward Henry “Butch” O’Hare, in honour of his bravery in the World War.

Paris airport is named after the legendary President of France Charles De’ Gaulle.

In neighbouring countries like Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Maldives, airports are named after local leaders. Sri Lanka’s only international airport at Colombo is named after its assassinated Prime Minister SWRD Bandaranaike. Karachi Airport is named after the founder of Pakistan M A Jinnah and the Kathmandu international airport is named after former King Tribhuvan.

Given India’s charged political atmosphere, it is better not to name future airports after any public personality. It saves the country from new controversies.
First Published: January 9, 2016, 2:07 PM IST