New Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju Pusapati and his Minister of State Gowdar Mallikarjunappa Siddeswara would have tasks cut out for them when they assume office tomorrow.
They would have to address crucial issues facing the aviation sector including construction and upgrade of airports including low-cost ones across the country, reviewing the 5/20 rule to allow Indian carriers to launch global operations and the issue of downgrade of India’s safety ranking by US regulator Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
While Raju is a veteran leader, Politburo member of the Telugu Desam Party and a seven-time legislator, Siddeswara is a senior BJP leader elected from Davangere constituency of Karnataka for the third successive term since 2004. Raju, known for his philanthropic activities, belongs to the titular family of Vizianagaram.
Among the critical issues the two leaders would have to address is the turnaround of cash-starved Air India, whose financials have lately started looking up.
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The Ministry has recommended to the new government to continue the turnaround plan and infuse the much-needed equity in Air India, whose profitability has been steadily improving. This recommendation was made despite some quarters suggesting privatisation of the national carrier.
Another major issue would be the modernisation of six metro airports, including those at Chennai and Kolkata, and almost 30 non-metro airports and the work would have to begin soon. Besides, there is a growing demand for building of low- cost airports in various parts of the country.
The new government would also have to take urgent steps towards restoration of the top Category-I status of the country’s safety mechanism, which was downgraded to Category- II by FAA in January.
An overall presentation on these and other issues would be made to the Ministers soon after they take charge. This would be followed by detailed briefings on every crucial aspect of the sector, official sources said.