Scrap Civil Aviation Ministry, Create Holistic Transport Ministry: Mahua Moitra

The TMC MP said that with the privatisation of Air India there was no point in discussing the demand for grants of the civil aviation ministry.

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New Delhi: Trinamool Congress (TMC) MP Mahua Moitra on Tuesday demanded that the civil aviation ministry be scrapped and merged to create a holistic ministry for transport as the government was no longer in the business of running a national airline.

Participating in the discussion in Lok Sabha on the demand for grants of the civil aviation ministry, she said that with the privatisation of Air India last month there was no point in discussing that as it was already a “fait accompli” and “we need to move on”.

“We can only hope that this government has put in enough rules and reasonable processes for aircraft to be made available from the private sector for emergencies as and when required by the government of India, as we have seen in the case of Ukraine and many others in the last few years,” she said.

Moitra pointed out that since 2014, Air India formed 60-95% of the civil aviation ministry’s budget.

The sale of Air India, basically an airline that cost the exchequer about Rs 120,000 crore in the past 10 years due to “gross mismanagement”, is being now lauded as a landmark success, she said, slamming the government.

Pointing to the decrease in the amount for regional connectivity scheme UDAN scheme and the Air India privatisation, she asked that with a “paltry” budget expenditure of Rs 1,240 crore what is the need for a separate ministry of civil aviation.

“People should be aware that there is no country in the world apart from India and Bangladesh, which has a separate and independent ministry for civil aviation. Everyone has evolved as they have sold and privatised their national carriers,” she said, citing the examples of the US, UK, Canada, Germany, Singapore and Japan as countries that do not have a separate ministry.

“The proposal I put forward is that now that this ministry is no longer in the business of running a national airline, why does it even need to be a separate ministry, what is it actually doing? Why not merge the ministry of civil aviation with the ministry of road transport or the shipping ministry and create a holistic ministry for transport?” Moitra said.

The Airports Authority of India, a Central Public Sector Enterprise (CPSE), is now the mainstay of the entire civil aviation ministry and barring the regional connectivity subsidy of about Rs 600 crore, which incidentally is a huge underperformer, there are no big sums to be managed here at all, she argued.

Even the important air navigation services are solely mandated to the AAI, Bureau of Civil Aviation Security, the regulator, does nothing except issue civil aviation circulars and conduct routine audit checks, she pointed out.

The government should stop focussing on building so many airports for “bragging rights” and focus on facilities at existing ones, she asserted.

“Merge the ministry, do away with the separate demands for grants, reduce duties on aviation turbine fuel (ATF), better still bring it under GST,” she suggested.

“Keep the Maharaja out of the skies by all means, but let us keep the aam aadmi flying high,” Moitra added.

After a competitive bidding process, the government had on October 8 last year sold Air India to Talace Private Limited – a subsidiary of the Tata Group’s holding company – for Rs 18,000 crore.

Conglomerate Tata Group took over Air India in January and vowed to turn the loss-making carrier, it had founded but had lost control nearly seven decades back, into a world-class airline.