The 100-day plan announced recently by the civil aviation ministry is part of a larger agenda to create a vibrant aviation ecosystem in the country
Coming in the wake of the challenges posed by Covid-19, the 100-day plan announced by the civil aviation ministry recently is a part of the Centre’s agenda to tap the full potential of India’s aviation sector. Modernising and expanding airports, boosting the Udaan and the Krishi Udaan schemes, simplifying aircraft leasing, incentivising maintenance, repairs and operations (MROs), linking MROs with MSMEs, and enabling defence-civil convergence on aerospace technology are among the important features of this agenda.
The 100-day plan needs to be seen against the backdrop of the‘Lifeline Udan’ flights launched last year, which transported 1,000 tons of essential cargo to remote parts of the country. Entailing an allocation of
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Rs 1,200 crore, the plan focusses on 16 areas – of which four relate to infrastructure, eight to policy measures and four to reforms – and would extend from August 30th to November 30th. The ministry has also announced a new policy for Maintenance, Repair and Operations (MRO) activities.
On the to-do list for the 100-day plan are operationalisation of the Kushinagar airport in Uttar Pradesh and a new terminal at the Dehradun airport, estimated to have cost Rs 457 crore. The government is also spending Rs 490 crore to upgrade the capacity of the Agartala airport from 500 to 1,200 passengers per hour and will develop six new heliports in Himachal and Uttarakhand.
Rise in air travel would create a demand for 2,380 new commercial airplanes by 2038, a Directorate General of Civil Aviation ( DGCA) report has projected. To cater to such demand, the government has planned increasing the number of operational airports from the present 155 to 200 by 2040. Funding is not likely to be an issue for the ministry’s agenda since the commerce ministry expects the industry to receive investments of Rs 35,000 cr in the next four years.
The major initiatives announced in 2020 and 2021 include plans to set up a water aerodrome at Ujjain Dam in Gujarat, two in Assam and four water aerodromes in the Andaman & Nicobar Islands. A new airport at Kurnool in Andhra Pradesh was made operational in March this year and the Airports Authority of India (AAI) has issued tenders for construction of the first phase of the Dholera international airport in Gujarat, at a cost of Rs 987 crore. The Airports Authority of India (AAI) has also signed a 50-year concession agreement with the Adani Group for provision of services at the Jaipur, Guwahati and Thiruvananthapuram airports.
On the issue of maximising the sector’s potential, V K Singh, minister of state for civil aviation, says policy decisions on aircraft leasing, exemption of lease rent for MROs and reduction in aeroplane operating costs need to be made an integral part of the infrastructure upgrade. India was expected to become the third largest aviation market by FY24 when Covid-19 struck, with domestic and international traffic declining by 62% and 84.8%, respectively, in FY21, though with travel curbs being eased, domestic traffic has somewhat recovered.
“We want to make air travel affordable for the common man, though passenger enabled traffic is only one part of the sector. Among the many changes needed, the entire value chain for ferrying agricultural produce has to be incentivised and designed in a way that it enables better price realisation,” Singh says. He points at capacity creation for production of commercial aircraft in India as a key factor for future growth, with MROs for multi-engine commercial aircraft getting into the business and creating an ecosystem that involves MSMEs. The civil-defence convergence which the Centre is seeking would pave the way for commercial aircraft manufacturing in India, says Arup Raha, former Indian Air Force chief.