Scindia in Lok Sabha: There has been no disinvestment; we have just leased airports.
With civil aviation being an increasingly important component of India's development and economy, the country will have at least 220 airports by 2025. Jyotiraditya Scindia, Minister of Civil Aviation, informed the Lok Sabha that the government is not on a "disinvestment road," but has just leased the airports. He claimed that the decision generated more revenue for the government in addition to ensuring airport upgrades.
Scindia, in response to an eight-hour debate in the Lower House on the demand for funding for the Civil Aviation Ministry, requested chief ministers throughout the country to cut the VAT on Aviation Turbine Fuel (ATF) in their respective states, which he said would improve connectivity and revenue.
"At this point, 12 states and UTs have cut the VAT on ATF." Let me tell you about the profit part: both Andhra Pradesh and Kerala have decreased VAT, and there has been a 15% increase in connectivity in three months, with more planes landing and taking off from both states. "Jammu & Kashmir has decreased it from 26% to 1%, but the number of planes landing there for refueling has increased by 360%," the minister stated.
Scindia stated that the Covid epidemic had harmed the country's otherwise thriving civil aviation business, but that it had now recovered. "In the last seven days, 3.82 million travelers traveled by plane per day."
He went on to say that it was 35.5 crore in 2018-19, but it decreased by 66% during the Covid period to 11 crores. It was 4.15 lakh per day before Covid, but the sector had caught up and the difference was only 5%, but the Omicron wave hit it again. "It went from 3.90 lakh (passengers per day) to 1.60 lakh," he said.
According to Scindia, who took over as civil aviation minister in July of last year, the country has 74 airports in 2014. "66 new airports have been built in the last seven years." We have more than increased our capacity. By 2025, there will be 220 airports. We have opened three stores in the recent year.
With numerous Opposition MPs criticizing the government for "disinvesting" in airports, Scindia emphasized that the government had not disinvested – which he said would result in only a one-time payment and the assets would never be returned – but had instead leased them for 50 years. He stated that the Airports Authority of India receives Rs 904 crore as a lease charge each year and that Rs 2,322 crore has already reached the GoI accounts as a result of the leasing of six airports. "The airports will return to us with the improvements," he stated.
He also emphasized the importance of private sector participation in sector development. "The government cannot go further on the development road alone," he added, adding that private enterprises had already spent Rs 34,000 crore in the field.
Scindia reminded the House that the Union Finance Minister has guaranteed budgetary support for the sector, citing programs such as UDAN, which has made air travel accessible to common individuals. He stated that 91 lakh individuals had benefited from the UDAN scheme.
The minister praised the Indian Air Force, private airlines, Indian missions overseas, and NRIs for their assistance in evacuating stranded Indians from the crisis zone in Ukraine since Russia's attack. Indigo operated 35 flights, Air India 14, Go First six, Air Asia three, and Air India Express and Spicejet nine each, according to the minister.
He noted that the economic multiplier of civil aviation in India is 3.1 and the employment multiplier is 6.1 and that 15% of pilots in India are women, compared to the global average of 5%. The minister stated that 35 new cargo ports will be built in the country over the next three years, and that India is attempting to be a leader in the drone business, which may generate at least 5 lakh job possibilities.