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”!

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Happy Birthday Mr Modi: Your friend from Goa!
September 17, 2021

I like you Mr Modi. Your are a good person and an inspiring leader.

I like you because your intentions are driven purely for India. I saw that passion, care and love for our motherland and its people, in your eyes when we meet on August 6, 2021.

You called me your friend from Goa and that too me was such a wonderful way to describe our friendship.

I remember your laughter when I told you, about my retort to people who call me a ‘Bhakt of Modi’ – ‘I am a Bhakt, are you a Kambhakt’. It showed me your witty side.

I know you face immense criticism for the sincerity of your work; some decisions, some might not understand. But I see a plan behind your actions, that plan is not for the destruction of India but for its welfare. There are short-term objectives and then there are long-terms goals.

In our discussion for 25-minutes, I understood that you care for India, as a child cares for its mother. It is this single-minded courage of conviction that you possess that endears many committed nationalists like me to you as a person and as a leader.

It is not easy managing and governing India. It is diverse and often difficult to comprehend, especially the needs, wants and aspirations of the people of India.

I know it is impossible to be appreciated by every quarter in India but I can see most people in the country admire your efforts and dedication Towards a Better India. The people of India have a sense of hope in you and they are willing to put their trust implicitly in you.

The fact about your life that is inspiring to me is that you were a common citizen, who came from humble beginnings to work your way up the ladder of success. You were not born into aristocracy or political legacy. You have strived arduously over the years to rise up and take forward your visions and missions for Gujarat first as a state and now over the last seven-years India as a nation.

Your rise in the political space in India and globally has been phenomenal but it has not come without strife and hardships. You have surfed the tough waves of your political career with confidence and taken people that believed in you and followed you, along with you.

Life, in my simple understanding has been your greatest teacher.

It is wonderful to learn from your strategies in dealing with the different hurdles you have faced as the Chief Minister of Gujarat and now as the Prime Minister of India. I have been following your work since 2000. And it has not been an easy ride for you. Every step of the way has been a struggle but with each challenge you have emerged stronger than before and more determined. It as though, your challenges in life have moulded your career for the better. That grit you possess is infectious.

I realized in my personal meeting with you, which was huge high in my personal achievements of my life, that you are not pretentious. You are who you are and you just want to give your best to India in the best that you can give.

People look for perfection in their leaders. I do not think any leader can be perfect in his actions or decisions but he can be honest in his intentions and that’s what I found in you during our conversation. You are honest about your duty to the country and its people.

Such is the honesty you possess in your intentions for India, that dishonest people in India and nations outside of India fear you. They feared you when you were the Chief Minister of Gujarat, they fear you even more now that you are the Prime Minister of India for a second-term and I am quite confident you will be the Prime Minister for the third-term too. Our nation’s enemies know that under your leadership, India can strengthen its roots to grow into a global nation that is valued, respected and feared.

Your life’s experiences of 71-years is an interesting learning for most Indians because it is about a man from the grassroots of India who dreamed of a Better India and worked for the last several-decades to do his duty to the nation.

I am in awe of you as a politician but I have even more admiration for your humanness. You are good human being. You have a heart of care and concern for the common people.

The Congress has termed your birthday as ‘Panuati Day’ and ‘Bad Omen Day’. That is the pathetic level of their political maturity. Once tall political leaders and political parties have exposed their fall into an abysmal pit of degeneration and degradation. Such is their hate for you, because you have shafted their political arrogance with your governmental policies, some very tough decision, but most of all, they cannot get over your connect with the people of India. They don’t understand what makes people connect to you.

The answer to the question of your people connect is simple. You are one of them, you think like them, you act like them, you live like them and you dream like them. It is your simplicity and lack corruption in governance that makes people believe in you.

On your 71st birthday, I wish the very best for you and your years ahead as leader of one of the world’s most promising nation – India with our people of great ethos and culture.

Humbled that you considered me to be a your friend from Goa. I am glad to have a friend like you from whom I can learn.

You are a leader that has stirred a spirit of confidence in our people. It is a confidence that will reshape the future of India for the better.

Some people can continue to mock you for reasons known to them, I see you differently. And I am glad that our country at this point of time has you as our leader. You are not perfect but you are the best we have.

From the people of Goa, my family and myself: Happy Birthday Mr Modi!

Author Name : Savio Rodrigues

Source : Goa Chronicle