Centre favours Goa for air cargo complex

| 22 September 1998 11:58 IST

Goa is being considered an ideal place by the union commerce ministry to set up a cargo complex to export perishable goods, besides starting a permanent commercial exhibition centre here for the western region, on the lines of Delhi's Pragati Maidan.

Though the idea mooted by union commerce minister Ramkrishna Hegde is welcomed by the new coalition government headed by Dr Wilfred de Souza, the cargo complex could be set up only if the defence ministry agrees to shift its naval base elsewhere from the Dabolim airport.

Since its liberation in 1961, Goa has been using part of the naval air port at Dabolim for civilian traffic, while the controversy over the ownership of the air port land is still unresolved. The proposal to have another international air port at Mopa, on the northern border of the tourist state, is still pending before the civil aviation ministry.

"I would request defence minister George Fernandes that let the navy shift to another air base, allowing the state to use it fully for the growing civilian traffic", said de Souza after returning from Delhi. He however could not meet Fernandes.

The commerce ministry is apparently planning to set up the cargo complex near the air port to export perishables like vegetables, flowers, fruits, fish and meat through several tourist charters coming to Goa and also to the Middle East countries, where it is in demand.

The Indian Trade Promotion Organisation is also trying to locate a space in Goa to set up the exhibition centre for the western region, on the lines of Delhi's Pragati Maidan. "They have preferred Goa because over 12 lakh tourists - both domestic and foreign, visit the coastal state every year", informed de Souza to the journalists.

The central government is planning to set up such permanent exhibition centres also in Calcutta, Bangalore and Chennai, besides one in the western region, for which Mumbai was considered earlier.

As the developmental work in Goa has come to a standstill with public treasury going dry after paying salaries to the government employees as per the Fifth Pay Commission recommendations, de Souza has now requested the centre to sanction one-time outright grant of Rs 150 crore to the tourist state.

While claiming that prime minister Atel Bihari Vajpayee has assured to finalise it in consultation with the union finance minister, de Souza says it would be primarily utilised for providing infrastructural facilities along the coastline from tourism point of view as well as to upgrade the medical facilities at the Goa Medical College.

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