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New Delhi, June 12 – Union Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia hit back at Congress leader K.C. Venugopal, saying he made ill-informed remarks on the aviation sector and the sector that was earlier ‘elitist’ has been truly democratised under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
In a tweet, hitting out at Venugopal, who also served as the Minister of State for Civil Aviation, Scindia said, “As former Minister of State for Civil Aviation, it is highly shocking that K.C. Venugopal Ji has made such undiscerning and ill-informed remarks on the aviation sector.”
Citing examples, the Union Minister said, “No, India’s economy is in the pink of health. Even as the global economy continues to struggle, ours continues to stand as a beacon of hope with a growth rate of 6-6.5 per cent in FY 2023-24. That said, there is no reason that a deregulated sector like aviation should be put under government control — the repercussions of which have known to dent the growth potential of this sector in the past.”
“A portion of the routes that were earlier being served by GoFirst have already been allotted to other airlines. Also, you have chosen to turn a blind eye to the immense growth that this sector has witnessed since 2014. Passenger count which stood at 122 million in 2014 is currently at 280 million — a jump of 130 per cent. Under UDAN, we have operationalised 475 routes and flown over 116.06 lakh passengers,” Scindia added.
He also said that the Ministry has advised airlines to self-regulate their fares under a certain limit — “the result of which is that prices have come down by 14 per cent — 60 per cent since June 6, 2023”.
“It is a rather tone-deaf assumption. The financial functioning of airports is a private matter of the operator. Again, I would like to update you that within 24 hours of the Odisha incident, an advisory was sent by MoCA to all airlines to monitor any abnormal surge in airfares to and from Bhubaneswar. In a separate high-level meet, airlines were advised to keep a tight check on the pricing of air tickets, especially in times of calamity,” the Minister added.
“I would like to inform you that the sector has made tremendous progress in this aspect. In 2021, we had only 12 states and UTs that were charging VAT on ATF between 0-5 per cent range, today 28 states and UTs are under this category, and 3 states and UTs under 20 per cent. It is mostly the non-BJP state governments who continue to charge VAT on ATF of more than 23 per cent. This continues to stand as a hurdle for increased connectivity in the respective States,” he claimed.
“Lastly, it’s important to note that a sector that was earlier ‘elitist’ has been truly democratised under the leadership of PM Narendra Modi Ji. We have doubled the number of airports, helipads and water aerodromes from 74 to 148. Domestic daily pax traffic has broken all past records. Connectivity has finally begun to reach the last mile, and soon India will emerge as an international civil aviation hub. Let’s get the facts right Venugopal Ji,” he added.
His remarks came after Venugopal took a swipe at the BJP-led Central government over the high prices of air tickets between Delhi-Mumbai, saying that his (Modi’s) promise that even the poor can afford to fly on planes sounds like a cruel joke and it is creating havoc among flyers.
Venugopal also accused the government’s rampant privatisation policy as responsible for the ‘difficult situation’.
In a tweet, Venugopal, said: “Prime Minister Modi famously said that those wearing ‘Hawai Chappals’ (slippers) can travel on a ‘Hawai Jahaaz’ (aeroplane). With Delhi-Mumbai flights crossing Rs 15,000 plus everyday, his words sound like a cruel joke.”
“These skyrocketing airfares are creating havoc among the middle class. The government’s complete free pass to the airlines, coupled with their rampant privatisation spree, is responsible for the dire situation today. The Ministry of Civil Aviation must face some hard facts,” the Congress leader added.