KOCHI: Strange as it may sound, Kerala, with a massive expatriate population, has never deemed it necessary to have its own civil aviation department, despite the ever-swelling number of people who prefer flight as the chosen mode of transport, both domestic and international. To put things in perspective, the number of states that have their own aviation department now stands at 14, many of them with much lower air traffic volume. Curiously, even though there is no state aviation department, Kerala has an IAS officer as its aviation secretary, which is an additional charge he holds. Presently, files related to airport projects are handled at ‘D’ Section under the state transport department.
‘’A request has been submitted to the government for the constitution of an expert cell to take care of aviation-related projects and to coordinate between state and central governments. The matter is pending before the Chief Minister. A decision is pending,’’ K R Jyothilal, Secretary, Personnel and Administrative Reforms, who holds the additional charge of State Aviation Secretary, told Express. Clearly, a dedicated department to give wings to its aviation aspirations seems a distant cry.
“There is no denying the difficulty faced by the state in implementing aviation projects in the absence of a dedicated department. High-level coordination between the state and central government is required, not only for new airport projects but even for the maintenance and development of the existing ones. This is especially true in the case of various clearances that require close coordination with a number of central ministries,” said aviation analyst Jacob Philip.
Philip said, if Kerala had its own aviation department operating directly under a minister, there would be better control over ongoing projects just as it would in choosing fresh project proposals. It would fill up a void that currently exists between the Centre and the implementing agency. “This becomes even more relevant as the state is about to start work on its fifth airport. Right from the eviction of residents in the area earmarked for the airport to selection of the right consultant, the department has its work cut out. Now, all this is being done by three different agencies/departments,’’ Philip added.
The states with their own aviation departments
Jammu and Kashmir, Arunachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Punjab, Sikkim, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan and West Bengal.