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June 18, 1998


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New civil aviation policy imminent, says Ananth Kumar

The Centre will soon issue a new civil aviation policy, envisaging an integrated approach for establishing a modern civil aviation network in the country, Union Civil Aviation Minister Ananth Kumar said on Wednesday.

Addressing members of the Federation of Karnataka Chambers of Commerce and Industry, he said the new policy would seek to amend the 50-year-old air traffic rules, besides encouraging privatisation of the aviation industry.

He said the ministry had taken up the issue of rationalisation of air turbine fuel, foreign travel tax, Indian air travel tax and subsidy paid for kerosene by it on behalf of the petroleum ministry, so as to set up a national civil aviation development fund with a corpus of Rs 3 billion. If the proposals were accepted by the ministries concerned, air tariff would come down considerably.

Ananth Kumar said the ministry was also considering the setting up of international airports in Ahmedabad, Amritsar, Bangalore, Guwahati and Hyderabad.

Saying that air communication facilities were inadequate in the country, he said only 55 of the 120 airports were functional now. The government was considering handing over some of these airports to private parties, especially the industrial chambers and city corporations for maintenance. However, government agencies would be in charge of air safety and regulations, he added.

He said the government was also contemplating to set up vision airports on the lines of Changi and Amsterdam airports, furnished with all facilities, including recreation.

Ananth Kumar said the government, which had accepted the Kelkar committee report, would go ahead with disinvestment from Indian Airlines. The employees would be given an opportunity to become shareholders of the company. The Kelkar committee was also asked to bring out a report on Air-India, and it was expected to do so in two weeks.

He said the government had permitted foreign direct investment up to 100 per cent for construction of airports with government approval, and up to 74 per cent without approval on partnership. The ministry had come out with broader guidelines on infrastructure development for the benefit of the investors, he added.

He said his ministry had cleared acquisition of 22 50-seater aircraft to operate in regional hubs, utilising the sub-regional airports. This would cover the north-eastern sector and other sub-regional areas.

On the proposed international airport in Bangalore, he said the ministry had accepted the need for such an airport and it had taken steps for upgradation of the existing airport to meet the present needs.

He said the Hubli airport would be converted to an all-weather airport by this year-end. He had agreed in principle to allow Gujarat Airways, a private operator, to start flights on the Bombay-Hubli-Bangalore sector from this month-end, he added.

The minister said the Karnataka government had agreed to provide 100 hectares of land at Mysore to expand the airport facility as there were 1.3 million potential passengers travelling from the city every month. A proposal for upgradation of the Belgaum airport at a cost of Rs 350 million was pending with the Planning Commission, he added.


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