Aviation sector needs a sensible policy, fast

Need for an aviation policy is imperative if this sector, burdened with heavy losses, is to grow

The draft civil aviation policy announced by civil aviation minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju, which envisages, among other things, the listing of the profit-making Airports Authority of India (AAI) and Pawan Hans Helicopters Ltd, and scrapping the rule requiring airlines to have five years’ flying experience and a fleet 20 aircraft (5/20 rule) if they want to fly abroad, is welcome. So also is the proposal to review, on an equal-opportunity basis, controversial bilateral agreements with foreign airlines.

These have been talked about for several years and airline veterans say much of the new draft policy was proposed by the first NDA government in 2000. The minister, however, should have set a time line or laid out a road map for the final policy since most of the problems have been discussed threadbare over the years and there must be several committee reports, including on Air India’s revival, gathering dust.

Now he, too, is setting up an expert group to frame policy and also decide the future of Air India. AI should be the cornerstone of the new aviation policy as the government is sinking in around Rs 30,000 crore to keep it alive.

Six months have already elapsed since the new government took over and the need for an aviation policy is imperative if this sector, already burdened with heavy losses, is to grow. There have been piece-meal decisions, many of them taken by the earlier UPA government, that favour a few to the detriment of most domestic airlines, not to mention national carrier Air India. However, what is different this time is that the Modi government can be depended upon to implement the final policy.

The draft policy announced Monday was very vague. Mr Raju should have at least been specific about how much stake the government wanted to divest in AAI and Pawan Hans. He will have to be more assertive and not depend totally on the bureaucracy when framing policy. The bureaucracy is partly to blame for the mess in Air India as their tribe occupied the post of AI chairman as it was a stepping stone to higher positions in government. Meanwhile, the minister has said the 5/20 rule, to his mind, “does not make sense”, is “opaque” and “no country in the world has such a rule”. So, every day that he allows it to exist he will be perpetuating a senseless rule made to benefit certain airlines.

( Source : dc )
Next Story