Bill seeking to develop smaller airports passed
The Airports Economic Regulatory Authority of India (Amendment) Bill 2021, which aims to promote the development of smaller airports, and seeks to group airports together to improve their attractiveness to investors, was approved by the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday amid protests by opposition parties over the Pegasus snooping issue.
This will now pave the way for the bill to become a law. It was cleared by the Lok Sabha on July 29 and will now need President Ram Nath Kovind’s assent.
The Airports Economic Regulatory Authority of India (Amendment) Bill 2021, which proposed to amend the definition of ”major airport” under the Airports Economic Regulatory Authority Act, 2008 (AERA Act), was tabled by the civil aviation minister Jyotiraditya Scindia on the floor of the House.
“We have identified five zones for this clubbing, which include north, south, east, west, and northeast zone. Based on this clubbing... Airport Authority of India will be giving a priority to airports in smaller cities and newer airports will also be inaugurated…,” Scindia informed the House on July 29.
Hailing the efforts of the Narendra Modi-led government for making air travel accessible for everyone, the minister added: “Prime Minister Modi is someone who truly democratised travel. In the midst of the spread of coronavirus and when there is sloganeering, our government is committed to the development of the poor and the farmers.”
He also listed various areas that have benefited from the central government’s Udaan, or the regional connectivity scheme. Over the last one-and-a-half years, several smaller cities such as Darbhanga in Bihar, Belgaum and Hubli in Karnataka, Jharsuguda in Odisha and Jagdalpur in Chhattisgarh, which were earlier “missing” from the map of civil aviation, have witnessed 110 flight movements from various parts of the country, he said.
The bill was subsequently referred to a parliamentary standing committee on transport, tourism and culture, which has since then approved it without any changes.
“The Bill intends to aid the government’s plan for privatization of smaller airports as part of its asset monetization programme announced during the budget for 2021-22. The Bill also promises to help faster develop the smaller airports and expedite the regional air connectivity scheme, UDAN, by expanding the air connectivity to relatively remote areas,” said Poonam Verma, partner, J. Sagar Associates.
“The amendment will allow AERA to regulate tariff and other charges for aeronautical services for not just major airports with annual passenger traffic of more than 3.5 million, but also a group of airports together,” Verma added.