Government Endeavours to Improve Countrywide Air Connectivity in Civil Aviation
The aviation sector of India has perceived a steep growth curve in the last decade with a boom in the overall air traffic (including cargo, not to mention the passengers) marked by a quantum leap in the number of operational aircrafts, and considerable investitures in improving the airport infrastructures. The aviation sector is also witnessing a rapid expansion of the airport networks across the country (metro and non-metro) with enhanced capacities for handling air traffic. The inclusion of the private airlines in the aviation sector has further boosted the countrywide air connectivity. It is expected that by 2020, the airport network of India will be equipped to cater 336 million domestic and 41 million international passengers which will eventually promote India’s position as the third largest country in the global aviation market. As per the projections of the International Air Traffic Association (IATA), 2012-2016, India will be poised to emerge as one of the top five countries with the highest market for domestic air traffic in the global scenario with an impressive CAGR of 13.1% (the second highest expected growth rate in the global market). The second phase of expansion of the aviation sector will be enhanced by improving the air traffic infrastructure in the Tier II and Tier III cities. The aviation sector has tremendous potential and the successful tapping of this potential is expected to be achieved by 2020.
The Government plans of improving countrywide air connectivity:
The 12th Five year Plan of the Government (2012-2017) includes the proposal of setting up of 17 new airport facilities across the country between the period of April 1, 2012 and March 31, 2017. The locations demarcated for the construction of these low budget yet operational airports are the following; Karnataka, Mopa, Bijapur, Shimoga, Goa, Aramula (Pathanamthitta) and Kannur (Kerala), Gulbarga, Hassan, Darba (MP), Karaikal (Pudducherry), Sindhudurg, Navi Mumbai and Shirdi (Maharashtra), Kushinagar (UP), Kishangarh (Ajmer, Rajasthan), Andal-Faridpur (West Bengal), Itanagar (Arunachal Pradesh) and Deoghar (Jharkhand). In an exclusive interview to IANS in 2012, Civil Aviation Minister, Ajit Singh expressed his views on improving air connectivity, “We need more connectivity to smaller cities. There is also the need to build low cost airport at these places. This will surely encourage a growth in the passenger traffic. Tier-II and Tier-III cities are the ones that are showing rapid economic growth. These are the places where aviation service must improve”. The projections of the FICCI-KPMG report, ‘India: The Emerging Aviation Hub’ reaffirmed the possibility of India emerging as a country ranking third largest in the global aviation market and a global aviation nerve center by 2020.
Of course this will necessitate implementation of pro-aviation policies for the civil aviation sector, value addition to the current aviation services, revised tariffs and preserving the interest of the passengers. Such measures will evidently promote the tourism industry and the industrial sector in general which in turn will generate considerable benefits for the civil aviation sector. The 12th Five year plan is aiming for an investment of USD 120 billion for revamping the entire air traffic framework which will also include the refurbishment of the facilities like road and metro to improve accessibility of the various airports. The future plans of the Government include the construction of 200 operative and low cost airports in the coming two decades to cater the increasing growth in air travel. Precedence will be given to the previously less focused North Eastern regions as well as the Tier II and the Tier III cities of the country which will further secure the domiciliary aviation sector. Furthermore, the Government is also mulling over the idea of implementing 15 more airports under the ‘Greenfield Airport Policy’, following the models of operational airports with minimum cost involvement.
The Government efforts of framing an approach of increased incentives to the Indian airlines for exploring off the beaten track air routes to create and improve air connectivity is currently underway. In addition to this, Airport Authority of India (AAI) is speculating over an endowment of INR 1,500 crore for the development of the non-metro aviation hubs. The actual aim of the government is not only to improve countrywide air connectivity but developing an international standard Air Navigation Service (ANS).
The improved countrywide connectivity of the civil aviation sector- A pet project of the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh:
The development of the countrywide air connectivity and the proposed construction of 17 airports under the 12th Five Year plan were augmented by the PM laying the foundation stone for the first of the said airports in Kishangarh town, Ajmer, Rajasthan. Scheduled to be completed by 2016, this airport is expected to be an impetus for the tourism industry (Ajmer is a famous tourist spot) as well as bolstering the industries of this region including the marble industry, the exclusivity of Ajmer. A budget of Rs 161 crore has been earmarked for the Ajmer airport project. In a speech delivered on this occasion the PM declared, “An ambitious scheme to develop a network of 100 smaller airports is being implemented. Focus earlier was on developing airports in metro cities and now more than 100 airports will be set up in small towns and cities.” He further added that, “The number of air passengers was 16 crore last year and it is estimated to be increased by 30 crore by the end of 2020. We will have to put more efforts to meet the requirement and both the government and the private sectors need to make heavy investments for this”.
Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh also spoke on this occasion, “There are small airports in several cities but lack services. We now plan to start services at such airports in order to enhance connectivity”. The proposed civil airport under the authority of AAI with a 2,000 meter runway and the capacity for accommodating 150 passengers is located on NH-8 near Ajmer city.
In an effort to increase countrywide air traffic communication for the Tier II and the Tier III cities, Air India is already mulling over chartering turbo-prop aircrafts. The Air India officials currently involved in an effort of drawing up a comprehensive plan demarcating the air routes and the number of aircrafts needs to be chartered to execute the planned connectivity. Alliance Air, a subsidiary of Air India will be revamped completely with the replacement of at least 11 aircrafts. The plans of Air India to promote air connectivity are conducive with the Ministry of Civil Aviation’s drive to include the Tier II and the Tier III cities in the air connectivity expansion program. A promise of concession for the various airport related operations to improve the aviation sector in the Tier II and Tier III cities is under serious consideration of the AAI. The approval of chartering 19 Airbus A-320 aircrafts by the airlines board in May 2013 is already through. This endeavour of the Government of implementing the countrywide air connectivity, new airports in remote and far off locations along with revised and affordable air tariffs will be welcomed heartily not only by the frequent flyers but also the road and train travellers and the citizens in general.