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Fact Check: Truth behind PM's claim that 35 Airports were built in last 4 years

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During the inauguration of Sikkim's first airport at Pakyong, PM Modi said that there are now 100 airports operational in India of which 35 were built in last four years. But his claim is not true.

Sikkim finally joins the rest of the country in the aviation map. Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated Pakyong airport in East Sikkim district, located at a distance of 28 km from Gangtok, the capital city of Sikkim. During the inauguration ceremony, PM Modi said: "There are now 100 airports in India out of which 35 were built in the last four years". He also claimed that over the 67 years of independent India till 2014, 65 airports were averaging to one airport per year, but since the last four years, nine airports has been constructed on an average.

Watch the full video here.

Let's find out the facts behind the claims of the prime minister Narendra Modi.

Claim 1: There are now 100 airports in India

Our Investigation: Several fact-checking websites and mainstream media have claimed that there are 101 operation airports in India now after the inauguration of Pakyong. As per the latest coffee table book released by the Ministry of Civil Aviation on September 25th, there are 100 operational airports which prove Modi's claim to be true. But there is one ambiguity in the book. In a chart, they have shown that operational airports in India have increased from 75 in Fiscal Year(FY) 2014 to 102 in FY 2018. However, they have listed only 100 operational airports in the book.

(We have contacted the ministry and will update this information and will publish a new report if we get any response).

Conclusion: PM Modi's claim that there are now 100 airports in India is almost true.

Claim 2:  35 Airports were built in the last 4 years

Our Investigation: Fact Checker has claimed that only 7 airports were made operational in the last 4 years. As per IndiaSpend

As many as 129 airports are owned by Airport Authority of India (AAI) of which 23 are international, 78 domestic, eight customs and 20 civil enclaves at defence airfields, according to the annual report 2017-18 of the ministry of civil aviation.

Of 129 airports, 101 airports–including civil enclaves–are operational and 28 are non-operational, according to replies (here and here) by the government to the Lok Sabha (lower house of Parliament) on July 19, 2018 and August 8, 2018.

As many as 125 airports were owned by AAI at the end of March 31, 2014, the aviation ministry’s annual report 2013-14 shows. Of these, 94 were operational–including 29 civil enclaves–and 31 non-operational.

While it is true that at the beginning of 2014, there were 94 ‘operational’ airports. But, that only meant that the airport was ready to receive flights, even if it was only for chartered flights or private flights. Out of these 94 operational airports, only 67 airports were connected by regular flights of scheduled airlines, thus benefiting the general public.

Evidently, not all these airports were benefiting the general public because the scheduled airlines had not agreed to start the flights to some of these ‘operational’ airports. As a result, such airports were handling only occasional chartered flights or private flights.

Since 2014, the number of airports connected with regular flights of scheduled airlines has gone up from 67 to 100 airports

The above information was given by the Ministry of Civil Aviation on September 25, 2018.

As we can see there are some ambiguities in the statement by the Ministry of Civil Aviation and the booklet released by the Airport Authority of India. As per the Ministry of Civil Aviation, the number of operational airports has gone up from 67 to 100 between 2014 and 2018. While according to the Airport Authority of India, the number of operation Airports has gone up to 102 from 75 in the same period. 

Note: Ministry of Civil Aviation has given numbers of last 4 years while Airport Authority of India has given the numbers in terms of Fiscal Year.

Is the report of Fact Checker Wrong?

The term ‘operational’ airport doesn’t mean they are open to public use and are connected with scheduled flights. When asked about the abandoned airports in 2013, the government had replied that the airports can be used giving due notice to the Airport Authority of India (AAI). That is what is meant by ‘operational’, even though there are no flights scheduled to the airport.

The ‘Fact Checker’ website has produced many Lok Sabha replies to illustrate how the operational airports have increased from time to time and PM Modi’s claim does not reflect through official documents. While their report is not incorrect but they ignored the definition of "Operational Airport".

Still, PM Modi's claim that 35 airports were built in the last 4 years is completely false.

Fact: Approx 27 (33 as per Ministry of Civil Aviation) Airports were made functional in last 4 years. Most of them were built before 2014 but were not operational.

How many Airports have been built in last 4 years?

7 Airports were built in the last four years.

You can see the list of 100 operation Airports on page number 23 of the coffee table book released by the Airport Authority of India.

Note: You can reach out to us at[at]gmail dot com if you find any issue with our articles.

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