PM Award for Excellence in Public Administration ? UDAN Scheme

PM Award for Excellence in Public Administration – UDAN Scheme

News: The Ministry of Civil Aviation’s flagship Regional Connectivity Scheme UDAN (UdeDeshkaAamNagrik) has been awarded Prime Minister’s Award for Excellence in Public Administration this year.

About:
• The UdeDeshKaAamNagrik (UDAN) scheme is a low-cost flying scheme launched with the aim of taking flying to the masses.
• The first flight under UDAN was launched by the PM in April 2017.
• It is also known as the regional connectivity scheme (RCS) as it seeks to improve air connectivity to tier-2 and tier-3 cities through revival of unused and underused airports.

How does the scheme operate?
• Airlines are awarded routes under the programme through a bidding process and are required to offer airfares at the rate of ₹2,500 per hour of flight.
• At least 50% of the total seats on an aircraft have to be offered at cheaper rates.
• In order to enable airlines to offer affordable fares they are given a subsidy from the government for a period of three years.

Impact of the Scheme:
• The scheme has connected around 67 underserved/unserved airports, including heliports and water aerodromes, and over 92 lakh people have benefited from it.
• More than 1 lakh 79 thousand flights have flown under this scheme.
• The scheme has helped connect with several sectors pan-India including Hill states, North-eastern region, and islands.
• In addition, KRISHI UDAN scheme launched in August 2020, on international and national routes has assisted farmers in transporting agricultural products.

Some of the challenges:
• Many small airlines await infusion of funds, to be able to undertake maintenance of aircraft, pay rentals to lessors, give salaries to its staff.
• Many players don’t have more than one or two planes and they are often poorly maintained. New planes are too expensive for these smaller players.
• State governments are facing issues in acquisition of lands to setup airports, this is a time-consuming process.
• The scheme focuses on connecting hilly terrain regions but that comes with its own challenges. It requires licensing, special attention and technical capacity, which has proved to be another major constraint.
• Insufficient runway lengths also restrict certain airports from receiving regional flights. For example, SpiceJet – largest player in the scheme, was unable to start certain routes due to lack of airport infrastructure, including airport readiness and smaller runways.
• The pandemic induced lockdown halted the development of UDAN airports and delayed acquisition of aircrafts by selected airline operators.

Way Forward:
• Developing a competitive and viable regional aviation is critical to support the orderly growth of Indian aviation. This applies to both airlines and airports.
• While it is extremely important to build airports in regional areas, the government should also ensure accessibility of these airports from nearby catchment areas. Taxes on fuel also need to be reduced, which has been a demand in the industry for a long time. 

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