Civil aviation gets wings as state inks deal with AAI
The efforts to create a strong and fruitful civil aviation infrastructure in Uttarakhand got a major shot in the arm with the state government inking an agreement with the Airports Authority of Indiadehradun Updated: Jul 24, 2017 20:36 IST
The efforts to create a strong and fruitful civil aviation infrastructure in Uttarakhand got a major shot in the arm with the state government inking an agreement with the Airports Authority of India (AAI). The move comes after earlier efforts to boost intra-state aviation failed to yield fruit.
Apart from helping create the infrastructure, the AAI will also assist state’s civil aviation authorities in obtaining necessary clearances for airport operations besides assessing commercial potential of various aerodromes in the hilly state, an official release said Monday.
Chief secretary S Ramaswamy, representing Uttarakhand government, signed the memorandum of understanding (MoU) on July 21. The AAI was represented by Anil Gupta, general manager (business development).
“Uttarakhand is determined to fulfil the long-pending requirement of operational airports within the state. These airports would also be part of the Regional Connectivity Scheme and will boost tourism and air connectivity for the local public,” Ramaswamy.
As per the MoU, the AAI will assist Uttarakhanad Civil Aviation Development Authority (UCADA) in obtaining necessary clearances for airport operations starting with the upgraded airport at Pithoragarh and later at Chiniyalisaur. Incidentally, the Pithoragarh airport could not turn fully functional even after previous Harish Rawat government cleared way for low-cost flights from Dehradun. Non-compliance of technical formalities has been cited as reason.
Earlier, the UCADA had floated tenders for flight services from three airstrips --- Naini-Saini in Pithoragarh district, Chaniyalisaur in Uttarkashi, and Gauchar in Chamoli. No company came forward. The UCADA will once again float the tenders next month.
“No company came forward to start operations from the three airstrips and we will float tenders again through Government of India,” R Rajesh Kumar, additional secretary, civil aviation, told Hindustan Times.
Prakash Pant, state finance minister and Pithoragarh MLA, alleged that the previous government had launched services to Pithoragarh with an eye on the assembly elections. “The Congress government started flights to Pithoragarh for which permission is sought every day. They planned to use only the government aircraft, which means no business and loss of revenue. It was simply a strategy to influence assembly elections,” Pant told Hindustan Times.
Uttarakhand has so far failed to avail benefits under the Centre’s “Ude Desh Ka Aam Naagrik” (UDAN) scheme owing to its strict norms. That, however, is likely to change as the Centre recently decided to tweak at least two norms --- the upper flying limit and distance between two airports. The move has been taken to give boost to the regional connectivity in Uttarakhand, Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, and seven North-east states.
Experts feel there’s not much scope for regular intra-state flights in the hill state. “There are no industrial belts except in Udham Singh Nagar and Dehradun, which makes regular flights non-feasible in remote areas,” Rajeev Dhar, an independent aviation expert said.
The government, however, is upbeat with the development. The scope of the fresh MoU is to identify relevant factors influencing the development of civil aviation infrastructure in Uttarakhand, assessing commercial potential of various airports in the state, identifying technical considerations for airport operations, evaluating site-related technical and engineering parameters for development of projects, according to the release.
The scope of collaboration also includes making estimate of the capital outlay for the future projects and development of master plan for existing and future civil aviation infrastructure in the state.