The writing on the wall
When a business is established, its growth largely depends on the development of the surroundings and the beneficiaries of the business within the neighborhood. This is the basic doctrine of business. Applying the same logic to Dabolim airport, one ought to understand the background of Dabolim some 50-odd years ago. At that time, and even in the early 1970s, Dabolim airport, though controlled by the Navy, but had minimal civilian operations. That of course was enough to accommodate the skeletal flow of passengers. Over the years however, with the government pushing its tourism agenda, Dabolim witnessed a dramatic rise in civilian traffic, predominantly tourist arrivals via chartered flights. This resulted in conditions being imposed by the Navy, who insisted that certain slots were made available for pilot training. The rise in tourist arrivals also saw a dramatic rise in the number of people involved in the tourism trade. Seeing their success, more people invested in tourists related activities, right from the hospitality sector, to restaurants. People living along the coast purchased vehicles to be used as taxis. Banks were an integral part of the growing economy, from Dabolim to the southern tip of Galgibaga to the northern side of the State. Today, a colossal investment stands in tourism related activities, providing financial security and livelihood predominantly to those around Dabolim and the entire coastline. Dabolim has emerged as the epicenter of business activity.
Now, another airport at Mopa — that too of international standards — being proposed to be built in five years , according to statements made by our politicians, including our brightest Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, has reasons to keep the benificaries of tourism around and beyond Dabolim worried. The airport at Mopa will incorporate most recent trends in aviation, with ample space all around, broad and long runaways capable of handling wide-bodied aircrafts. In such a scenario, which airline company would prefer to land at Dabolim? For that matter, which pilot would like to land at Dabolim when such a world class airport is existent at Mopa — a distance of hop-skip and jump from Dabolim? Needless to say, virtually all civilian traffic would be zeroing at Mopa, with Dabolim abandoned and people in the tourism business in the region disillusioned.
In such a grim situation, what is the logic of having Dabolim open for civilian traffic?
When Parrikar tom-toms that Rs 500 crores is allocated for upgradation and expansion of Dabolim, this sum would be a waste, because, eventually, if Mopa materalises, the Navy will be the beneficiary of all the facilities and attractive mechanism of landing and takeoff. Because, by then, Dabolim will be deserted by civilian traffic and the vast majority of the beneficiaries dependent on the tourism trade will have to struggle to break even in their business venture and make ends meet.
This is the grim scenario which faces the people involved in the trade. This, of course, does not mean that people of Pernem must be left in the lurch. They have a right to guide their destiny. More of that another day.