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Parking-fee raaj at LGBI Airport

Staff Reporter
Guwahati, April 18: The total mess at the Lokapriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport (LGBI) parking lot reminds one of the hype that has gone the utterly wrong way due either to lack of workable ideas on the part of the planners concerned  or to total mismanagement on the ground. This is all the more so when it comes to the struggle passengers have to endure as they confront the situation when they land in the parking lot to board flights as well as when they exit out of the airport.
The parking system – including the collection of parking fees especially – is causing untold suffering to passengers. On one particular day, the parking booths both at the entry and exit points were arranged in such an incongruous  manner that on most occasions, drivers could not make exit within the limit of five minutes as stipulated because of unorganized parking or long queues before the exit booth. This is not how an international airport operates, that too in a city projected as the capital of a State that claims itself to be the gateway to Southeast Asia under the much-vaunted Act East Policy.
“Anybody visiting Assam or arriving through LGBI Airport is bound to have a disappointing experience at the overall ambience and poor facilities at the airport. The Advantage Assam programme gave a temporary cosmetic facelift to the airport. The long queues at the entry point inside the airport, before the X-ray machines and the security check-in are another disappointing tale for the visitors flying out,” said Bhaskar Dev Konwar, a senior advocate at Gauhati High Court, narrating his harrowing experience.
After arriving at the airport recently from Bengaluru Airport, what Konwar saw was the marked difference in facilities at both the airports.
“ Bengaluru Airport is of international standard while the one at Guwahati presents a very disappointing look. Usually, a vehicle dropping a passenger is given five minutes to exit for which no parking fee is payable. Recently, the parking booths at the entry and exit points were placed in such a way that on most of the occasions, the driver will not be able to exit within five minutes due to unorganized parking or long queues before the exit booth. One fails to understand whether the facilities provided in the parking lot to the vehicles justify charging an exorbitant amount of Rs 60 from each vehicle as parking fee. There is no attendant to facilitate organized parking or adequate security cover provided to the vehicles. Deliberately, the lessee of the parking lot through his attendants in the exit-pay booth delays collection of the parking amount, so that the free time limit of five minutes is over. It is a common sight of the occupants of vehicles and the parking attendants entering into verbal arguments in regard to payment of parking fees, which unnecessarily causes harassment to the following vehicles,” the senior advocate rued.
According to him, on that day, any vehicle which left the airport in the afternoon had to wait for a minimum 30 to 45 minutes at the exit booth of the airport for the only reason that the attendants at the exit booth were inefficient in collecting the parking fees, for which long queues of vehicles formed before the exit point, which stretched up to the drop-off point of the airport.
 “On enquiry with the taxi driver, he disclosed that this is a common scenario at the airport these days. This sort of unorganized system and officials’ attitude are a disgrace to our State and hinder development.  Moreover, there is no official monitoring of such an inefficient and unethical system of collection of parking fees,” Konwar said, adding: “If this is the welcome one receives at LGBI Airport, the first impression itself is disappointing and portrays a negative image of Advantage Assam. “
The senior advocate told this reporter: “Immediately the lessee of the parking lot needs to be penalized and the contract with him needs to be terminated. There is absolutely no justification on the part of the Airport Authority of India (AAI) to collect such an exorbitant amount of parking fees from vehicles through its agents without providing even the basic facilities in the parking area. The need of the hour is to ban such collection of parking fees at the airport.”
This being the glaring reality, one wonders what kind of impression tourists and investors landing in the airport take back home – the impression of an airport that claims itself to be of international standard but that falls pitiably short of the very basic requirements to be called so. And this is not a good sub-story to emanate out of the story of glory as was scripted during the ostentation called Advantage Assam!