25 February, 2021

UDAN Fails To Take Off

The Modi government’s affordable flying scheme hasn’t worked so far. Here’s why.

Long Wait
Hisar airport has all that an ­operational one needs, but it is yet to see a flight take off or land
Photograph by Suresh K. Pandey
UDAN Fails To Take Off

In August 1947, India inherited over 500 airports of all sizes across the country built by the erstwhile British government. In the summer of 2014, according to the Airports Aut­hority of India (AAI), only 73 airports were operational. With enhancing reg­ional connectivity underlined as a ­major goal of the National Civil Aviation Policy 2016, the Modi government brought in a scheme to utilise unserved and underserved airports to provide air connectivity to Tier-II and Tier-III cities at an affordable cost. Under the UDAN (Ude Desh ka Aam Nagrik) or Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS), existing and new airline operators were asked to bid for air routes from the list of unserved and underserved airports, and offered subsidy in the form of viability gap funding (VGF) on a maximum of 25 seats (provided that’s at least half of the total capacity). PM Narendra Modi flagged off the first UDAN flight in April 2016, from Shimla.

“The majority of the 400-odd unserved and underserved airports are in cities with populations over 5 lakh. Elsewhere in the world,...

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