The Modi government’s policy to take states on board has put a spanner on the new civil aviation policy with as many as 24 states opposing a proposal to develop only six international airports in the country.
The civil aviation ministry’s plan to develop Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore and Hyderabad as international hub airports has seen stiff resistance even from BJP-ruled states of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Punjab (in partnership with Shiromani Akali Dal). The opposition has delayed the announcement of the policy which was initially scheduled for notification by the end of January this year.
Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has communicated to the civil aviation ministry that no such proposal should be considered at the cost of harming connectivity out of other states.
“Their contention is that since most Indian airlines have their bases out of Delhi and Mumbai, to what extent can such a proposal restricting access of foreign carriers out of other states help? Even if such a policy is being considered to help Indian carriers, MP has said it should not be done at the expense of international connectivity out of other states”, said an official in the ministry of civil aviation who did not wish to be identified.
Madhya Pradesh has for some time been making efforts to get flights from Dubai and other West Asian destinations to the airport at Indore. The proposed norms stand to scuttle such plans.
The Raman Singh-government in Chhattisgarh has flagged concerns over the dilution in ownership norms of airlines registered in India. As per FDI norms, foreign airlines are permitted to hold up to 49 per cent stake in Indian carriers. Non-resident Indians can own added equity of up to 25 per cent.
The official informed, “… the change in FDI norms during UPA-II has watered down the distinction between foreign and national carriers . If 74 per cent of an airline can be held by foreign entities and NRIs, it amounts to being controlled from outside.”
The draft policy, which was unveiled by aviation minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju on November 10, 2014, has proposed developing these six airports as “major international hubs and (has said these) would in future be the main access points for international travel in and out of India.” The proposal is intended to restrict foreign airlines from adding new flights and carrying international traffic out of tier-II and tier-III towns and cities in India at the expense of domestic carriers.