A tenure that did not soar

Hyderabad | Updated on March 08, 2018 Published on March 08, 2018

Ashok Gajapati Raju

Successes during Ashok Gajapati Raju’s tenure as Aviation Minister were few and far between

Ashok Gajapati Raju’s resignation as Union Civil Aviation Minister brings to an end his three-and-a-half-year tenure during which a lot was promised for the sector though very little of it was delivered.

The Uday Desh ka Aam Nagrik (UDAN) — the government’s pet civil aviation scheme, which seeks to take flying to the masses by connecting Tier-II and -III cities and provide tickets at a cost of ₹2,500 for an hour of flying — was launched, but has failed to reach the potential which it sought to achieve.

While Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the high-profile scheme with great fanfare in April last year by flagging off the Alliance Air flight from Delhi to Shimla, the scheme has at best been a non-starter.

RN Choubey, Civil Aviation Secretary, told newspersons that only 31 of the airports which were to be connected under the first round of UDAN had been connected. The government offered many concessions in the second round of UDAN including allowing helicopters to participate in the scheme, which saw a number of more players participate in the bidding for routes. But it remains to be seen as to how many of these routes will actually take off.

Drone policy

The Ministry, under Raju, also promised there will be a drone policy from January 1 this year and that air bookings will be linked to bio-metrics —both of which are yet to be implemented in full.

Raju’s resignation also puts a question mark on the on-going divestment of Air India, which was initiated in June 2017 with the Union Cabinet giving its nod. Even here, the government seems to be missing set deadlines.

Choubey had gone on record to say that the Expression of Interest to be given to prospective buyers will be out by the end of February, but there is still no mention of when it will finally be issued.

In comparison to these undelivered promises, the successes during Raju’s tenure were few and far between. One area where he fulfilled what was promised was abolishing the 5/20 rule. It was implemented under the Manmohan Singh government and allowed domestic airlines to fly abroad only after they completed five years of domestic operations and had a fleet of 20 aircraft.

The out-going Civil Aviation Minister pursued the task of removing the rule and replaced it with the stipulation that any Indian carrier can fly abroad provided it has a fleet of 20 aircraft. Thanks to this change, AirAsia India and Vistara could look at options of starting international operations.

The Minister also succeeded in coming out with a no-fly list for disruptive air travellers. Raju was almost manhandled in Parliament in his attempts to get the list out, but even that did not deter the pursuit of the Ministry under him to unveil the policy.

Raju’s tenure also saw the start of the new airport projects in Mopa Goa and Navi Mumbai which had been hanging fire for several years.

Published on March 08, 2018
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