It has been four years since the central government, under the leadership of Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi, embarked on the ambitious task of building a strong and affordable regional aviation system in India. The UDAN scheme has been seminal in its impact, having triggered air connectivity to hitherto unserved regions.

The development and expansion of regional airports such as Darbhanga, Jharsuguda, Kadapa, Nasik, Belagavi, Jagdalpur, Hubli and Kishangarh have brought new destinations onto India’s aviation map and the concomitant unlocking of new economic opportunities in these regions (such as cargo) that were completely unexplored until five years ago.

For instance, the Darbhanga airport, which was built at the time of Independence, and was fully functional from 1950 to 1962, had been wiped off the aviation map. The airstrip was revived under the UDAN scheme, and is now seen as a critical gateway for northern Bihar to the rest of the country. The airport offers connectivity with six to 10 major cities, and currently handles over 150,00 passengers annually.

The Belgavi airport has facilitated travel for students to Belgaum, an education hub. The airport is being utilised for cargo operations as well, and soon will operate a flight training school — all in the span of a few years. Similarly, the Rupsi airport in Assam currently serves four key districts in Assam, as well as the neighbouring states of West Bengal, Meghalaya, and some parts of Bhutan.

The Jharsuguda airport in Odisha, another relic of the World War II era, was revamped for operations in 2019. Prior to this, the entire western Odisha region was uncatered for, and the only airport in Odisha was located in Bhubaneshwar, which is 339 km away from Jharsaguda. The airport handled more than 200,000 passengers in 2020-21 with 140 aircraft movements per week. The scheme has also opened up new modes of air transport such as helicopters which are providing access over 16 routes in the remotest areas of Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand.

The UDAN scheme has given birth to as many success stories on the other end of the spectrum too i.e; airline operators. We have witnessed a proliferation of new regional carriers, some having pivoted their businesses on the UDAN model: Participation of airline operators in Regional Connectivity Scheme-UDAN rose from five to 11 in the last two years.

Additionally, we were able to operationalise seven airports, two heliports and one water aerodrome in the last year despite the disruptions caused by Covid-19. Here’s why.

Our metro routes are adequately served, and major airports such as Delhi and Mumbai have already reached the zenith of their passenger-handling capacities. It is but natural that the path ahead for the growth of civil aviation will be paved with greater regional and remote connectivity, and building and serving more underserved or unserved airports/airstrips.

This would fundamentally change civil aviation from an elitist mode of transportation to one where even a person who wears a “hawai chappal” can travel by a “hawai jahaz” — as spelt out under the PM’s vision.

This democratisation of air travel and opening up to a high-volume, low-cost model for civil aviation, much along the lines of the telecom revolution in India, will also have a tremendous bearing on allied sectors such as air cargo, which quite remarkably, boomed during the Covid-19 times. The share of Indian carriers in the international cargo business has increased from 2% to 19% in the last two years.

During the lockdown, air cargo proved to be a lifeline not only for essential commodities, but also for our farmers to ship agri-perishables, especially from the Northeast. Now, with Krishi Udaan becoming the next focal point for the government, air cargo may well become a major force multiplier for the overall growth of the civil aviation sector in India.

At the macro level, the true benefits of this scheme will accrue in the form of huge economic paybacks in the long run. A study by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) reveals that the output and employment multipliers of the aviation sector are 3.25 and 6.10 respectively i.e. every ₹100 spent on air transport contributes ₹325 to economic output; and for every 100 direct jobs birthed in air transport, 610 jobs are created in the economy as a whole. Thankfully, the government took cognisance of this potential early on, and has been proactively supporting and engaging the aviation sector.

Pre-Covid-19, India was the third-largest domestic aviation market in the world with over 341 million passengers having travelled in FY20. The country was poised to become the third-largest overall market in three years till the Covid-19 headwinds hit markets across the world. However, a huge inequality among flyers has been observed across the world. As per a study by climate campaign group, Possible, in India, only 1% of our households take 45% of the flights, and so, in terms of our potential, we have only scratched the surface.

Under the visionary leadership of PM Modi, the government’s flagship UDAN scheme has allowed a huge chunk of first-time flyers to take flight trips at the cost of a first-class AC train ticket. And by connecting regional skies, we have begun the process of democratising and universalising the tenet that we can all “reach for the skies”!

Author Name: Jyotiraditya Scindia 


This article was first published in Hindustan Times.

It is part of an endeavour to collect stories which narrate or recount people’s anecdotes/opinion/analysis on Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi & his impact on lives of people.


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Modi’s Human Touch in Work, Personal Interactions Makes Him The Successful Man He is Today : Japan K Pathak
October 20, 2021

On October 7, Narendra Modi completed 20 years as the head of a government. For those of us in Gujarat, we have closely seen the rise of Narendra Modi and how he altered the trajectory of the state. People often ask what is the one thing that separates Modi. For me, it is the human touch, be it in work or personal interactions that has led to him scaling heights.

The 1980s were an interesting period in the politics of Gujarat. The Congress was comfortably ensconced in power, both at the Centre and in the state. Despite its lackluster governance, bitter factionalism and misplaced priorities, it was unimaginable that any other political party would come to power. Hardcore BJP supporters and workers were also uncertain.

It was in such times that Modi made a shift from RSS to a more political life in the BJP. He took up the challenge of preparing the party for the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation elections. One of his earliest steps was to integrate professionals with the BJP. The party machinery reached out to eminent doctors, lawyers, engineers and teachers to join the electoral and political process. Similarly, Modi attached great importance to talking about governance issues in addition to only politics. He was constantly thinking of innovative ways of uplifting people and transforming lives.

As a communicator, Modi was always outstanding and more than that he was motivating. I recall this one particular speech at a medium sized gathering at Nirmal Party Plot in Ahmedabad’s Dharnidhar. For the first few minutes, he made people laugh through the witty comments he was known for. He then went on to ask the crowd — shall we continue joking or shall we talk about issues of national importance? I do not know what courage I developed at that time that I shouted – Both. On hearing me say that he turned to me and said – No, we cannot do both. He then talked at length about BJP’s governance vision, Article 370, the Shah Bano Case and more. The ideological clarity left me spellbound.

Those outside Gujarat would not know that Modi’s cassettes of speeches were very popular in urban Gujarat during early 1990s. These cassettes would include parts of a speech Modi would have given in some part of the state.
One more of his moving speeches came in 1994 just after the Latur earthquake. From the RSS Karyalaya in Ahmedabad, relief material and a few volunteers were sent to Latur. Modi gave an impromptu speech. After the speech, at least 50 people said they want to leave for Latur right away and that Modi’s words have had a great impact on their mind. He dissuaded them and said it is more important relief work reaches than people going, and that they must keep working for the nation where they are.

Narendra Modi’s connect with different sections was also linked to his ability to reach out to different sections of society. The world saw his ‘Chai Pe Charcha’ in 2013-2014 but I cannot forget how Modi forged a bond with different people over cups of tea by interacting with morning walkers. During the 1990s, I met him at Ahmedabad’s famous Parimal Garden where he was addressing a group of morning walkers. I could instantly see the connect. One of the doctors who knew me told me that similar interactions with Narendra Bhai were very helpful for him to understand current affairs.

There are two anecdotes, which to me show the humane side of Narendra Modi. One of them dates back to the early 2000s. Historian Rizvan Kadri and I were documenting some of the works of KeKa Shastri, a doyen of Gujarati literature and veteran of the Sangh eco-system. We had gone to meet him and one thing that struck me was his poor health. I took a photograph and got it sent to Narendra Modi’s office. At soonest, KeKa Shastri had a nurse who would attend to him.

The other relates to author Priyakant Parikh. He had a strong desire that his 100th work be launched only by Modi but the only glitch — he is immobile and homebound due to a major accident. I remember CM Modi going to Priyakant Parikh’s house at Ashram Road and launching his book. Gujarati literature circles were spellbound that a sitting CM would go to the drawing room of an ailing author and launch his book!

Two virtues that have stood him well, which would serve every political person well are – his sharp listening skills and his love for technology. His only regret about technology — that the art of remembering phone numbers was going!

Through his political career, party disciple has been paramount for Narendra Modi. Ambition is not known to him. No wonder the BJP has never lost a single election – be it Lok Sabha, Vidhan Sabha or local body, when Narendra Modi was given the task of coordinating the party strategy. The only time the BJP saw electoral setback was in the year 2000 and that was when Narendra Modi was outside the state.

As journalists, we have to meet several people but Narendra Modi told me when I was a young reporter that these must not be transactional relations but bonds that last a lifetime. Sometime around Holi in 1998 I happened to be in Delhi. Narendra Modi said something I will never forget. He said, “You must have 5,000 numbers in your telephone diary and you must have met them once and that too not in a formal way. You must know them just not as a source but as an acquaintance or friend.” I have not met 5,000 people as Narendra Modi asked me to but it did make me realise the importance of a human touch that is so important. Narendra Modi has it in plenty, which is why he is so successful.


Author Name: Japan K Pathak


This article was first published in News 18

It is part of an endeavour to collect stories which narrate or recount people’s anecdotes/opinion/analysis on Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi & his impact on lives of people.