By Sandeep Banerjee: Some of the contemporary social scientists opine that the strongest parameter of judging a developed society is by the way it handles its vehicle parking. With ever burgeoning population resulting in contraction of space, provision of hassle free parking is indeed a cut out task today to modern societies right across the world. As the Bhubaneswar Airport has received ‘International ‘ status more than a year ago, it is noteworthy to take a look at their parking facility, which has come under serious scanner in the recent months.
The Airport parking lot is big enough and there is no paucity of space or congestion of vehicles during arrival and departure of fights, even at hours when there are two there flights scheduled close to one another. But the problem and confusion lies somewhere else. At the entry point, cars are just handed a Parking ticket. There is a entry time printed on this ticket. Courtesy the AAI, there is a rule in place that for five minutes stay at the Airport, no fee will be charged. Beyond this time limit, the four wheelers have to dish out Rs 40 at the exit point, which is narrow and congested. For some mysterious reasons, the AAI officials have not installed two exit points, which they can easily do because of availability of huge space at their disposal. When the Airport boasts of its preparedness to host International flights, it is necessary for the officials to make sure they have a strong system in place to meet the challenges.
The parking management at the Biju Patnaik International Airport has been outsourced. Bangalore based GR Parking Company, that has earned a credential for itself in this field with about six years of experience, is running the show at the Bhubaneswar Airport for the last nine months. The company pays a fixed license fee every month to the AAI. Colonel Dilip Rout is the head honcho of GR and he personally oversees affairs being present at Bhubaneswar Airport. However, in his absence, the young boys try to rule the roost and don’t hesitate to fool the commuters with misleading facts. Our own reliable source confirmed such an incident wherein he was informed that rules has been recently changed by which anyone coming to receive the passengers will have to pay a parking fee irrespective of the time they spend at the Airport. This person’s vehicle did not exceed the prescribed time limit but nevertheless he had to pay the fee, assuming the change in the rule book.
However when our Correspondents met Colonel Rout and his team, they denied any changes in the rule. It clearly indicates that some mischievous elements at the exit point are creating nuisance and fooling the commuters with false statements. Odisha News Insight brought this incident to the notice of Colonel Rout and the Airport Director Mr. Sharad Kumar, who promised to look into the matter. At the same time, they confirmed that the five-minute stay inside the Airport in any form is the thumb rule for being charged. Even if it’s a one-off case, action must be taken against the erring person so that others don’t dare to commit such offence in future.
The ONI team met Biju Patnaik International Airport Director, Shri Sharad Kumar, who is known for his efficient and no-nonsense style of functioning as well as the AGM Commercial, Shri Basudeb Behera. All of them, including Colonel Rout, vociferously lamented the reluctance on the part of the car owners to dish out an amount of just Rs 40. “The cars they come in are of 20-50 lakh value. Their drivers have costly Android phones. But they will bring the sky down for dishing out mere Rs 40”, said Sharad Kumar. On being asked about the five minutes rule which is the root of all confusion, the Airport Director defended the same by saying—“It is as per the AAI guidelines. But I endorse it since the plan gives the impetus to car owners to clear out quickly without paying anything. It is not all about money but bringing in discipline at the Airport”.
However , the AGM Commercial and Colonel Rout differed from this opinion. “The five-minute rule is dubious. Either make the parking free or just put a standard amount as charge for any vehicle coming into the Airport, irrespective of time. The five minutes time limit is creating more and more confusion . Some cars are coming in at breakneck speed and going out in the same way to avoid parking fees. This may result in some serious accident. On the other hand, five minutes is so short a time that despite hurrying some cars find at the exit that they have exceeded the time limit by just a small margin and this triggers off anger and fury’’, he candidly opined. He also added that the Commercial section of the Airport is under pressure from the AAI to increase revenue and on the other side there is ever rising grievances from the public over trifle issues like parking fees, thus making life difficult for them. “The five minute rule has to be dissolved as we are fed up dealing with the discontentment of the public. The cars should be uniformly charged, irrespective of any time limit at the entry point itself”, opined Colonel Rout.
Despite all kudos to the Airport Director for the good work that has been put in against all odds during his tenure, the ONI can’t help but comment that in this aspect the Airport and its authorities seem to have dropped guard a bit after outsourcing the Parking affair. Moreover, there is clear lack of co-ordination and clarity as also the uniformity of understanding between the officials on this issue is missing .The name of the agency may be big and reputed but it won’t harm if the Airport authorities oversee and pay that much of attention that is required of them and come up with a coordinated approach to clear the Parking affairs of its malady.