Sathya Sai Airport “white elephant” for sale!
Posted by robertpriddy on October 31, 2007
The Sathya Sai Airport is now on the market. This is one of Sai Baba’s several white elephants, one which stood unused (except for the odd VIP visit by private jet) for years and has handled nothing but occasional charter flights (only two-three per week at best) since then. This is how the self-proclaimed defender of India’s poor and suffering’s lets money be used for most wasteful self-publicity projects.
The Sathya Sai International Airport, Puttaparthi: In such a desperately poor State as Andhra Pradesh, the airport seemed very wasteful, having stood unused for years before the first commercial flight arrived and was still used less than ca. 5% of each week. Sathya Sai Baba’s trusted editor, V.K. Narasimhan, was present at the interview in 1990 where airport authorities attended. He told me how SSB convinced Indian Airport authorities to finance and build the large (allegedly Jumbo jet capacity) airport near Prashanthi Nilayam, telling them that they would earn 10 lakhs of rupees in the first year. No paying passengers even flew in or out during the first year, The frequency of traffic, at best about 2-3 flights of medium jets per week for several years at periods – and when SSB was in residence – ensured that earnings were minimal and well below costs. It was virtually closed often in the 1990s. It is trutly hard to rationalise such a huge waste of taxpayer funds in such an impoverished land! The reason can only be Sai Baba’s patently obvious desire for ‘name and fame’.
Later I learned from my (former) IAS friend, V. Ramnath, that Mr. M.K. Kaw (see image above) was the Secretary of Civil Aviation who had been a devotee since the 1960s when Sai Baba’s car stopped beside him while he was standing in a road in Aranachala Pradesh. Amusingly, Sai Baba had has Mr. Kaw – who is a relative heavyweight – actually sit on his lap during one inverview with his family. This is the man Sai Baba influenced to get his airport built.
Mr. Kaw tried to trick his superiors but was caught out
The Indian Express journalist from New Delhi, Swati Chaturvedi, exposed and documented (7 Feb. 1998) the corruption of Mr. M.K. Kaw – a favourite devotee of Sathya Sai Baba acting on his behalf. As Civil Aviation Secretary, originally arranged for Indian Government permission for the Sathya Sai Airport to be built. No one knows who funded it, as the Sathya Sai Central Trust financial accounts are not open to public scrutiny, but the same Trust apparently ended up owning it. He wrote “It took barely 48 hours for M.K. Kaw to clear an international cargo hub at the Sai Baba Trust-run airport at Puttaparthi in Karnataka. Kaw also directed that all help from the Government, including setting up a customs office, be provided to the private trust. ” However, the Minister of State Jayanthi Natarajan confirmed that Kaw’s order had been overruled and the matter referred to [Minister C.M.] Ibrahim. Kaw refused to comment In the process of clearance, Kaw has bypassed both the Ministers. September 17: The Sathya Sai Baba Central Trust applied to the Civil Aviation Ministry to set up an international cargo hub in Puttaparthi. Indian Express Minister aborts an unofficial “miracle” (deleted at source, click on image above to see full text)