An amount of Rs 36.98 crore was spent on maintenance of non-operational airports over the last three years while Rs 897.28 crore were spent on 24 additional operational airports from where no scheduled airline is operating, the government told the Rajya Sabha today.
Minister of State for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha hoped these airports would start functioning when a scheme for regional connectivity takes off.
For this, the government is planning a slew of incentives for airlines so that they begin operating regional flights, he said while replying to questions.
Sinha was responding after members raised questions related to non-operational airports while several others spoke about the need for air-connectivity to various important cities and towns.
The minister said the total expenditure on the upkeep of the non-operational airports over last three years has been Rs 36.98 crore. This significant amount was being spent from the consolidated fund of India, he said.
He, however added that the government is working on a “regional connectivity scheme” for which a lot of consultation are being held and once it becomes working, “many (non- operational) airports would be put into service.”
Sinha said while private airlines have the freedom to decide their routes, they could be given concessions for operating under the regional connectivity scheme like reduced tax on Aviation Turbine Fuel, Viability Gap Funding, reduced langing as well as route facilitation charges for flying to regional towns etc.
To a question on connecting cities in Maharashtra, Sinha said that while government is keen, the reduction in fuel prices has led to an increase in demand for air travel across the world.
This situation has resulted in shortage of planes, he said, adding another factor which has affected flights connecting cities in Maharashtra is that the Mumbai Airport is getting “congested” and it is difficult to find landing slots.
The minister said the government is keen that various regional cities are connected as per the Prime Minister’s policy. He mentioned ‘Nanded’, saying it is a town where people came with religious sentiments.
He was asked several questions about connectivity of various cities like Tiruchirapalli in Tamil Nadu, Kurnool in Andhra Pradesh or others in Telangana
To this, he said the Centre was willing to work with state governments. Earlier, members also asked questions related to security of the country’s airports.
To another question, the MoS for Civil Aviation said aviation security is of urgent importance for all and assured members that the highest standards of safety are followed.”The threat perception on various airports has been raised recently,” Sinha emphasised.
Responding to a question by CPI(M) member K K Nagesh, Sinha said the member is right in saying that out of the country’s airports, 59 are covered by CISF security while others are covered by CRPF and state police, who are highly trained to ensure all our security concerns at airports are taken care of.