India's Civil Aviation Ministry has set a target of having 500 operational airports in the next 12 years, according to a report by Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation (CAPA).
CAPA said this will include the ongoing redevelopment of currently unused airports or little used airports and development of greenfield and cargo airports.
Presently, India has only 80 fully functional airports equipped to handle scheduled commercial, charter and defence services.
In addition, there are another 368 landing strips that function as makeshift airports for limited purposes. As many as 156 belong to the defence or semi-defence sectors and various state governments while 63 are owned by the private sector.
The CAPA report states that virtually every district has some form of air service connectivity or the other, either a full-fledged airport or basic landing and takeoff facility.
This fact was one of the driving forces with which low-cost carriers were established, which went on to become immensely popular in India.
However, the peculiar situation in India is that air traffic is concentrated at a few key airports.
They include 16 offering international services and another eight that connect domestic sectors.
These 24 airports together account for a whopping 94 per cent of traffic and the balance is spread over 36 smaller or regional airports.
It would require a very liberal aviation to reach the target of 500 full-fledged airports in the country, backed by an aggressive programme to upgrade existing small airports, said the report.
In the next decades or so, state governments are likely to drive airports development, and this is likely to be reflected in the new aviation policy that will be announced soon, CAPA said.
Apart from this, airport development in India is expected to be largely a private sector play in the near future.
For instance, the Andhra Pradesh Government has already issued an RFP (request for proposal) for the development of airports in Tadepallegudam, Ramagundam, Kurnool, Ongole, Bobbili, Nellore, Kothagudam, Nizamabad and other places.
Other state governments like Karnataka and Maharashtra have also identified as many as 15 airports for development.
Private conglomerates already run some airports like those in Mumbai, Kochi, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Delhi.