On the anvil: New draft civil aviation policy
To meet the challenges of burgeoning air traffic, connecting remote areas, creating aviation hubs, ensuring safety and security and liberalising bilaterals to move towards an 'open sky', Modi-led government is preparing a new draft civil aviation policy.
The policy, which was drafted and approved by the erstwhile UPA-II government, has undergone a fresh review under the BJP-led regime with additional thrust being given on remote area connectivity, official sources said here.
The draft Civil Aviation Policy, on which the government would seek the views of all stakeholders, would also focus on encouraging regional airlines and suggest steps to move towards lower fares to make aviation affordable.
The draft policy is likely to come up with suggestions regarding jet fuel prices and heavy taxation on it which pose a major roadblock for airlines and consequently, development of aviation hubs in various parts of the country.
The need to coordinate development of tourism and promotion of 'brand India' in a concerted manner may also form part of the policy.
It is not only likely to recommend steps to develop global hubs in India but also establish domestic regional hubs to cater to the growing air traffic from non-metro destinations in remote areas like the northeast.
The government has been according high priority to provide air connectivity to remote, difficult and interior areas of the country and focusing on building and modernising airports in Tier-II and Tier-III cities.
The policy may also come up with a review of the rule, which allows an Indian carrier to fly abroad only after five years of domestic operations and after it has a 20-aircraft fleet. However, the proposals, many of which were made public over several months for an open debate, have come under criticism from various quarters, including the airlines which have been saying that high costs of fuel, aircraft and spares, mainly due to taxation, have disrupted the spread of air connectivity to remote areas.
The policy is also likely to deal with issues like liberalisation of visa norms and extending 'visa on arrival' to as many countries as possible. The creation of aviation hubs in various cities requires the establishment of facilities like immigration, customs, provisions for visa-on-arrival and foreign exchange involving various ministries. This year itself, the UPA-II and NDA governments have come out with separate policy guidelines on regional and remote area air connectivity, creation of air cargo stations and on allocation of airline slots.
Responding to the draft suggestions, aviation industry sources said the government's proposals to provide air connectivity in remote areas and Tier-II and III cities should take into account problems faced by the airlines in operating there and take measures to encourage them.