Lok Sabha on Tuesday passed a bill which seeks to improve India’s aviation safety ratings and provide statutory status to regulatory institutions, including the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).
Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Puri assured the House that the aviation sector would emerge from the current challenges posed by the coronavirus outbreak, which forced countries around the globe to impose travel restrictions.
The Aircraft (Amendment) Bill, 2020 provides for statutory backing to the DGCA, Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) and the Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB).
Responding to issues raised by members during the discussion on the bill, Puri said while air fares needed to remain affordable, it was also necessary that airlines remain viable.
He also said that the civil aviation sector has been deregulated and the government does not set air fare.
He said that airline companies are under stress due to coronavirus outbreak.
On the disinvestment of Air India, the minister said the national carrier was losing Rs 26 crore per day before the coronavirus outbreak. The figures would be higher as several routes have been shut following the outbreak of the virus globally, he added.
He said India as of now has 3,500 trained air traffic controllers. Next year, 250 more ATCs would be hired.
The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has suggested for proper recognition to the aviation regulators.
Earlier, moving the bill for discussion and passage, Puri said there was a need to provide statutory backing to DGCA, BCAS and AAIB as these bodies were set up under executive order.
The Bill also provides for keeping aircraft belonging to the country”s armed forces outside the purview of the Aircraft Act, 1934.
The Bill also proposes to increase the fine amount for violations of new rules from Rs 10 lakh to Rs 1 crore.
Participating in the debate on the Bill, M K Vishnu Prasad of the Congress said cases of “near miss” in the skies have increased many folds in the recent years.
Therefore, there is a need to augment human resources at air traffic controls to avoid mid-air collisions, he said.
Prasad also opposed the proposed sale of the national carrier Air India, saying this government is selling “family jewel” to manage its expenses.
Praising the effort of Air India during the evacuation of Indians from the coronavirus-hit China, he said that no private airline, other than the national carrier, came forward to carry out the job.
It will also help promote the aviation sector of the country, Sinha said.
Other key proposals include increasing the fine amount from Rs 10 lakh to Rs 1 crore for violations of new rules, empowering BCAS or any authorised officer to issue directions, having designated officers for adjudging penalties, and introducing a provision for compounding of offences.
Generally, compoundable offences are those which can be settled by paying certain amount of money.
It would also bring regulations of all areas of air navigation services under the Act.
The Act has provisions for securing the safety of aircraft operations in India and carrying out civil aviation operations as per standards, procedures and practices laid down by ICAO.
ICAO audits, conducted in 2012 and 2015, have indicated a need to amend the Act to give proper recognition to the aviation regulators.
Among others, the audits had suggested enhancing the “maximum quantum of fines and to empower the departmental officers to impose financial penalties on individuals or organisations involved in violations of the legal provisions”.
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