Civil aviation minister Ajit Singh says that the concerns of the Prime Minister’s Office over his ministry’s decision on changes in the aircraft acquisition committee has been resolved after the aviation secretary met with PMO officials. In an interview with The Indian Express, Singh says that the changes in the committee have not given any more powers to him that he did not have earlier. Excerpts.
Why was there a need for changes in the aircraft acquisition committee?
What has been happening is that some regional airlines apply for permission to import aircraft and then keep sitting on it. Despite a large number of companies applying for permission in the last few years, only Religare has bought planes. To avoid that, we said that submit the order you’ve given to the manufacturers.
What are the proposed changes?
We have just made the existing clauses more explicit and organised. We are also not asking the airlines to share numbers or their finances with us but we need to be assured that they will remain financially viable. Also, airlines show delivery schedules but none of them follow (these schedules). They do not even inform the ministry that they are not going to induct new aircraft, and the plans remain only for public consumption. Then we say that there are 1,000 planes on order but no data on how they intend to finance the projections. So, we said there should be some financial plans for next five years and set of rules about when and how you will acquire these planes. We also say that link the expansion plans to traffic projections made by the DGCA. If the passenger traffic is falling in a particular route then we should not allow any airline to add flights in that route. Or, if an airline is using only 50 per cent of its capacity and want fresh planes, we will not allow that. These are just means to utilise capacity well. The committee with new procedure will help create the aviation sector. We cannot determine how the companies will run but we can nudge them.
You have also changed the committee from being empowered earlier to recommendatory now...
It was earlier designated as empowered committee but that is illegal and it has to be a recommendatory body and the changes in it were initiated by the earlier (aviation) minister in March 2011. I made everything as per the correct