With the Smart City mantra being chanted across the country, the Aviation sector is also planning to come up with various plans, making it more intelligent and affordable. Anil Shrivastava, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Civil Aviation, Government of India, talks to Gautam Debroy of Elets News Network (ENN) on how the sector is planning to go smart
What is the importance of aviation in a Smart City?
A Smart City cannot be visualised without having smart modes of transport, and aviation is the smartest mode of transport that saves one’s precious time. It also provides smart connectivity to the destinations of economic growth for which aviation is not only a connector, but is an engine too.
As rightly said by David Williams, ‘All human life can be found in an airport’, airport has become a hub of large human activity. Therefore, expansion of Civil Aviation has become a focal point of development as it is a key infrastructure that connects people, shrinks distances and facilitates the growth of business and seamless flow of investment. Today, the sector of Civil Aviation & Tourism directly contributes up to 3.6 per cent of the national GDP. Thus, it can play a crucial role in development of a Smart City.
What significant role does IT play in the civil aviation sector?
Nowadays, the entire aviation is controlled through Information Technology (IT). Right from the cockpit to Air Traffic Control (ATC) tower through satellite communication, it is the IT which governs and controls the entire aviation.
A smart city uses digital technologies or Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) to enhance quality and performance of urban services, to reduce costs and resource consumption, and to engage more effectively and actively with its citizens.
What strategy do you have to connect with the remote areas of the country?
Currently, our main focus is to provide air connectivity to remote and interior areas of the country, North-Eastern Region, along with the tier-II and tier-III cities of India. For this, new and innovative solutions in the form of Route Dispersal Guidelines, aircraft acquisition and development of low- cost airports will be put in place.
There is a need to develop India as an international hub for passengers. An action in this regard has also been initiated, which includes revisiting the policy regarding bilateral air service agreements with different countries and also rationalisation of all bilateral and traffic entitlements on international routes to Indian carriers and rationalisation of traffic on domestic routes.
Besides, the Government of India has also approached various state governments for reduction of Value Added Tax (VAT) on Air Turbine Fuel (ATF) and under writing of seats so that it could be made affordable.
How is the public perception towards the aviation sector?
Although the passenger growth in the aviation sector is about 15 per cent, the air transport is still not affordable by general public. So, the Government is taking various steps to make it affordable. Apart from affordability, the concern is also rising on safety and security. As per the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, data safety record of India is good in comparison to other countries. However, security is our prime concern and the country takes all steps towards the upgradation of security equipment like the introduction of Biometric Access System at airports.
Although the passenger growth in the Aviation Sector is about 15 per cent, the air transport is still not affordable for general public. So, the Government is taking various steps to make it affordable
What are the various problems faced by this sector?
Implementation of projects/policies in civil aviation involves various factors such as liquidity for providing infrastructure and updated technology to the sector, viability being the major one. The high cost of operation and creation of infrastructure has an adverse impact on the aviation sector. The main operational cost depends upon the cost of ATF. Also, due to competitive atmosphere and lack of expertise, airlines operators are playing with thin profit margin.
What is the status of the regional connectivity for aviation?
Franklin Roosevelt once said, “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much, it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little”. Thus, it is imperative that growth in the civil aviation sector is equitable and inclusive across the country. The issue of providing regional and remote area connectivity, therefore, attains great significance. Considering the vastness of the country and varied terrains – ranging from the high mountainous region in the North, hilly terrains in the North-East, deserts in the West and thickly populated congested regions in the South, the present number of operational airports in the country is very small. We need to develop smaller low-cost no-frill airports in economically growing cities identified in various parts of the country with the help of the State Governments. There are 454 airports/airstrips in the country, out of which only 93 are operational. Many of the smaller airstrips are owned by the State Governments and we can join hands to develop these. The respective State Governments can provide the land required for expansion and provide road and power connectivity to the airport. We are in the process of identifying the most suitable low-cost viable model for development of small airports to promote and enhance regional and remote area connectivity.