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Budget gives larger wings to regional connectivity

The announcement to revive 50 aircraft landing sites is likely to give more wings to the govt’s ambitious aviation scheme, Regional Connectivity Scheme Udan

Budget gives larger wings to regional connectivity

While the last couple of months have witnessed consistent growth in the aviation traffic in the country, the budget announcement to revive 50 aircraft landing sites comprising airports, heliports and water aerodromes is likely to give more wings to the governments ambitious aviation scheme, Regional Connectivity Scheme Udan.

"Fifty additional airports, heliports, water aerodromes and advanced landing grounds will be revived for improving regional air connectivity," Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said in her Budget speech.

The importance of the regional connectivity scheme (RCS) can be gauged from the fact that the RCS has seen a doubling of allocation in this year's Budget since the last allocation and has increased from Rs 600 crore to Rs 1,244 crore.

The government had launched RCS-UDAN (Ude Desh ka Aam Nagrik) in October, 2016 to enhance regional air connectivity from unserved and underserved airports in the country and making air travel affordable for the masses.

Under the scheme, 459 UDAN routes involving 72 airports including nine heliports and two water aerodromes have been operationalised across the length and breadth of the country. Over 1.13 crore passengers have travelled in more than 2.16 lakh UDAN flights, so far.

Nine heliports have been developed and operationalised under the UDAN scheme in Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand. Mandi and Rampur are in Himachal Pradesh while Almora, Chinyalisaur, Gaucher, Haldwani, New Tehri, Sahastradhara and Srinagar are in Uttarakhand.

The UDAN scheme is applicable for a period of 10 years from the date of notification of the scheme. The government has set a target to operationalise 1000 UDAN routes during the currency of the scheme and to revive and develop 100 unserved and underserved airports, heliports, water aerodromes by 2024.

Thereafter, the Krishi Udan Scheme was launched in August 2020 to assist farmers in transporting agricultural products so that it improves their value realization. Krishi Udan 2.0 mainly focuses on transporting perishable food products from the hilly areas, north-eastern states and tribal areas.

Experts have also lauded the Budget announcement on development of airports and heliports. Shamsher Dewan, Senior Vice President & Group Head - Corporate Ratings, ICRA Limited, said, "The Union Budget 2023-24 has reiterated its focus on improving regional air connectivity through the setting up of 50 additional airports, heliports, water aerodromes, and advanced landing grounds revival, which will boost domestic air travel. Further, the budget provides a lot of thrust on the promotion of tourism through the development of 50 tourist destinations covering various aspects and further through the development of theme-based local tourist spots."

Sharing his views, Vinay Dube, founder and CEO, Akasa Air, said that the announcement of 50 additional airports and ramping up of the air transport infrastructure is a welcome move and will support the nation's growing demand for air travel. "The focus on promoting domestic tourism will provide impetus to further revival of the sector and aligns with our vision to strengthen India's transportation system," he added.

Kumar Vikram
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