Union Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri on Sunday said his ministry has set a target of operationalising 100 unserved and underserved airports and starting at least 1,000 air routes under the UDAN scheme. He also said that privatisation is required in the field of aviation as it is not the government's specialisation to run airports.
Addressing a press conference at the BJP's state office Kushabhau Thakre Parisar here over the Union Budget 2021-22, Puri also said that domestic flight services from Bilaspur town in Chhattisgarh will begin from March 1 under the regional connectivity scheme. "My ministry has set a target to operationalise 100 unserved and underserved airports and start at least 1,000 air routes under the UDAN scheme," he said.
"Fifty-six airports have already been upgraded and over 700 routes awarded, of which air-service has commenced on 311 routes under the UDAN scheme since it was launched in 2017 with a budget of Rs 4,500 crore," Puri said. On this line, flight services will start from Bilaspur airport from March 1. At present, the Alliance Air, a subsidiary of Air India, has been given the Bilaspur- Prayagraj-Delhi route, he said.
Speaking about the budget 2021-22, he said after it was presented, the stock market witnessed a considerable boost and the budget also earned praise from intellectuals and independent commentators across the country. When asked about Congress leader Rahul Gandhi's remarks that the budget reflects the Centre's intention to privatise PSUs, the minister blamed the opposition party for weakening the economic condition of Air India.
"If the point was being raised about privatisation of Air India, which is our national asset, its economic condition was worsened during the Congress-led UPA government," he added. At present, Air India has an accumulated debt of Rs 60,000 crore and the process of its privatisation is underway since long, but it will be the NDA government which is going to properly materialise it, said Puri.
He assured that the process will be carried out transparently through open bidding. "In 2006, during the Congress-led UPA government, the privatisation of Mumbai and Delhi airports was done and I give credit to them for it as the Airports Authority of India (AAI) got Rs 29,000 crore from the move which was used for the development of other airports," he said.
"Privatisation is required as it is not the government's specialisation to run airports. Although there are several airports which are being successfully run, when private capital enters, the activities increase manifold," he added. On the ongoing protest by farmers against the new agriculture laws, Puri accused the opposition of misleading the cultivators over the legislations and said his government is ready to sit with the protesters to resolve the issue.
He expressed confidence that the issue will be resolved soon.