A policy to encourage low-cost regional air connectivity to remote places across the country is likely to be tabled before the Union Cabinet soon, official sources said today.
A draft note has been prepared for circulation among the concerned ministries to enable the Cabinet to take a decision on the policy, which is based on the recommendations of the Rohit Nandan Committee to connect smaller towns and cities on a low-cost basis, the sources said.
The policy, likely to be taken up by the Cabinet in the next few weeks, would involve development of regional air routes as well as destinations, about 40 of which have been identified for the first phase. These include Muzaffarpur (Bihar), Asansol-Durgapur (West Bengal), Bilaspur (Chhattisgarh) and Jalgaon (Maharashtra).
There are 457 functional and non-functional airports and airstrips in the country, of which 91 are managed by the Airports Authority of India (AAI) and 125 by the armed forces.
The Rohit Nandan Committee report was further examined by global consultancy firm Deloitte, whose suggestions form the basis for the policy to bring smaller towns and cities within the air route network in a phased manner, they said.
The Committee has suggested that the Ministry devise ways to operationalise 225 airports in the next two decades.
The draft policy proposes that new routes, connecting about 80 Tier-II and Tier-III cities, would be offered in auction to airlines which would have the monopoly to operate on these sectors for two to three years.
The airline, which bids for the least subsidy from the Government to run these services on specific routes, would be chosen to fly on the given slots on each route. To begin with, the airlines bidding for these routes would get a subsidy.
The resources for the subsidy would come from the Essential Air Services Fund (EASF), which has already been approved by the Civil Aviation Ministry. According to estimates, an annual subsidy of about Rs 300 crore would be needed for the 40 cities approved for the first phase.