Aiming to connect small towns with aerial routes to give the quintessential common man or ‘aam admi’ the opportunity to undertake air travel, the government had unveiled the regional connectivity scheme (RCS) – UDAN (Ude Desh Ka Aam Nagrik) on October 21, 2016.
Under it,100 new airports as well as heliports and water aerodromes are to be developed between 2019 and 2024 to support the UDAN scheme. In addition to this, 780 valid routes have been allotted to shortlisted airlines after four rounds of bidding.
The Airports Authority of India has earmarked a sum of about Rs 25,000 crores for a period of five years, i.e. from 2019 to 2024, during which the 100 new airports, heliports and water dromes will be made operational.
As of now though, out of 780 valid routes, only 359 routes have been made operational, according to official sources.
The update on airports shows that while in the fiscal year 2019-20, nine airports were developed, 14 airports had been developed till the third quarter of 2020-21 (i.e. December 2020), out of the proposed target of 26 airports which were to be developed during that fiscal.
In the current fiscal (2021-22) and in 2022-23, 20 airports apiece are to be developed while 25 airports in 2023-24 are to be developed.
Therefore as per the information provided by the civil aviation ministry itself, till December 2020, only 23 airports had been developed under the UDAN scheme, even as it is half way through its tenure period.
As far as parameters adopted for identifying airports under the UDAN scheme is concerned, the civil aviation ministry has said that it is a market driven scheme, under which interested airlines, based on their assessment of demand on particular routes, submit their proposals at the time of bidding.
An airport which is included in the awarded routes of RCS – UDAN and requires upgradation or development for commencement of RCS operations, is developed under “revival of unserved and underserved airports” scheme.
The UDAN scheme is funded through a Rs 50 levy on flight tickets on major routes. The levy accounts for 80 percent of the viability gap funding provided to the airlines, with the remaining 20 per cent provided by state governments.