Chandigarh airport was renamed Shaheed Bhagat Singh International Airport as a tribute to the freedom fighter on his 115th birth anniversary on Wednesday.
After Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement on the name change during his last Mann Ki Baat radio address, Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman officially christened the airport at a ceremony that was attended by the governors of Punjab and Haryana Banwarilal Purohit and Bandaru Dattatraya besides Punjab chief minister Bhagwant Mann, Haryana deputy chief minister Dushyant Chautala and Haryana home minister Anil Vij. Union minister of state for civil aviation General VK Singh (retd) and airport chief executive officer Rakesh Ranjan Sahay were also present.
Mann thanked the Prime Minister for fulfilling the long-pending demand of Punjabis, and that too on the revolutionary’s birth anniversary. “Finally, our efforts paid off. On behalf of the entire Punjab, we welcome the decision of naming the Chandigarh airport after Shaheed Bhagat Singh ji,” Mann said in a tweet in Punjabi.
A similar sentiment was expressed by Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar. He said the young generation should draw inspiration from Bhagat Singh’s sacrifice and established values.
Last Sunday, Prime Minister Modi had announced that September 28 is an important day of the ‘Amrit Mahotsav’ as it is the birth anniversary of Shaheed Bhagat Singh. “Just before the birth anniversary of Bhagat Singh, an important decision has been taken as a tribute to him. It has been decided that the Chandigarh airport will now be named after Shaheed Bhagat Singh. It was long awaited,” the PM said.
He congratulated the people of Chandigarh, Punjab and Haryana, and the rest of the country for this decision. “Let us take inspiration from our freedom fighters, follow their ideals and build the India of their dreams… this is our tribute to them. The memorials of martyrs, the names of places and institutions named after them inspire us with a sense of duty,” the PM Modi said.
Bonhomie at ceremony
Wednesday’s function witnessed a light moment when Haryana home minister Anil Vij mistakenly referred to Punjab chief minister Bhagwant Mann as “Sardar Bhagat Singh ji”, evoking smiles .
The move ended a seven-year deadlock due to the demand to add Mohali, Chandigarh and Panchkula to the name of the airport. Punjab and Haryana reached a consensus over renaming the airport after a meeting between Bhagwant Mann and Dushyant Chautala in August.
Mohali airport versus Chandigarh airport
The ₹485-crore Chandigarh Airport Project is a joint venture of the Airports Authority of India (AAI) and the governments of Punjab and Haryana. Punjab and Haryana have 24.5% share each, while the AAI has 51% share.
After the airport’s inauguration on September 11, 2015, Haryana had insisted that the international airport, a joint venture of the two states, be named after Chandigarh, the common capital of the two neighbouring states instead of Mohali airport.
Punjab had given 307-acre land in Mohali for the airport project. The airport runway is located in Chandigarh while the international terminal is located on the south side of the runway in Jhiurheri village, Mohali.
Bhagat Singh versus Mangel Sen
Later, the Congress government, led by former Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda agreed to name the airport after Shaheed Bhagat Singh, as demanded by the Punjab government.
However, after the Manohar Lal Khattar-led BJP government took the reins, it demanded that the airport be named after RSS ideologue Mangel Sen.
In 2017, the Punjab government passed a resolution that the Chandigarh International Airport be named Shaheed-e-Azam Sardar Shaheed Bhagat Singh International Airport, Mohali, to which Haryana vehemently objected, claiming that it was a move to stake claim over the airport.
Later, the Haryana government said it did not have an objection to the airport being named after Shaheed Bhagat Singh, but did not want Mohali, the Punjab district where the airport is situated, to feature in its name.