NEW DELHI: The civil aviation ministry has received a budgetary allocation for the next financial year that is more than double the amount of Rs 2,710.31 crore it got last year. The increased allocation in the Union Budget for 2018-19 is mainly on account of two new aircraft to be used for VVIP flights.
Of the total allocation of Rs 6,602.86 crore for the civil aviation ministry, Rs 4,469.50 crore is meant for “purchase of two new aircraft for special extra section flight operations”, as per a budget document. The two Boeing 777-300 ER planes have been inducted by Air India and sent back to the United States, where they are being fitted with safety features as per recommendations made by security agencies.
The allocation for the ministry’s regional air connectivity scheme, called UDAN (Ude Desh ka Aam Nagrik), in which fares for a certain number of seats are capped at Rs 2,500, received a boost, jumping to Rs 1,014.09 crore for the next fiscal as compared to Rs 200.11 crore for the current financial year (2017-18). Aviation experts called it a much-needed move as the ministry is facing a shortage of funds for UDAN.
“Even those who wear ‘hawaii chappal’ (low-priced slippers) can now travel by ‘hawaii jahaz’ (an aircraft)... We will connect 56 unserved airports and 31 unserved helipads. Operations at 16 such airports have already begun,” said Finance Minister Arun Jaitley as he announced plans for expansion of UDAN in his budget speech on Thursday.
Debt-laden Air India, for which the government has started the process of disinvestment, would receive budgetary support of Rs 650 crore under a turnaround plan. This is a huge decline from the Rs 1,800 crore allocated for the current fiscal. According to the budget document, Air India is to get Rs 506 crore in the next fiscal by way of Internal and Extra Budgetary Resources (IEBR), which refers to raising funds through internal resources and external borrowings.
The budgetary allocation for state-owned Airports Authority of India (AAI) has been reduced to Rs 73.31 crore from the Rs 149.93 crore allocated in 2017-18. The budget document said that grants-in-aid are extended to AAI “as reimbursement of expenditure already done by them on the existing projects. The funds are provided for Pakyong airport”.
Jaitley said, “We propose to expand our airport capacity more than five times to handle a billion trips a year under a new initiative-NABH (NextGen Airports for Bharat) Nirman. Balance sheet of AAI shall be leveraged to raise more resources for funding this expansion.”
Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Udaan Academy and National Aviation University would also receive a slightly increased allocation of Rs 50 crore. The air safety and air security regulators of the country, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) and Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) would receive slightly higher allocations of Rs 210 crore and Rs 70 crore, respectively.
Helicopter services provider Pawan Hans is to raise Rs 9 crore through IEBR in the next fiscal, according to the document.