5 years of UDAN Scheme

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    • Recently, the Ministry of Civil Aviation’s flagship program Regional Connectivity Scheme UDAN (UdeDeshkaAamNagrik) has completed 5 years of success since the launch of its first flight in 2017.

    About UDAN Scheme

    • It is the flagship Regional Connectivity Scheme of the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA).
    • It aims to fulfill the aspirations of the common man by following the vision of UdeDeshkaAamNagrik,with an enhanced aviation infrastructure and air connectivity in tier II and III cities.
    • The objective of the UDAN Scheme is to connect small and medium cities with big cities through air service.
    • UDAN has significantly increased the regional air-connectivity in the country. 
      • There were 74 operational airports in 2014. Because of the UDAN scheme this number has increased to 141 by now.
    • UDAN created a framework based on the need and led to the formulation of:
      • Lifeline UDAN (for transportation of medical cargo during pandemic).
      • Krishi UDAN (value realization of agriculture products especially in Northeastern Region {NER} and tribal districts).
      • International UDAN routes for NER to explore International Connectivity from / to Guwahati and Imphal.
    • RCS-UDAN was awarded the Prime Minister’s Award for Excellence in Public Administration under Innovation Category for the year 2020.

    Objectives of UDAN Scheme

    • The main objective of the UDAN Scheme is to connect small and medium cities with big cities through air service. 
    • To make travel affordable and accessible to all. Cheap and affordable air travel facilities will be made available for the citizens of the country.
    • It aims to boost inclusive national economic development by the development of air transport infrastructure in all regions and creation of job growth.
    • Ensuring connectivity to the under-served areas in the country by the revival of existing airports and airstrips.

    Benefits of UDAN Scheme

    • The launch of the regular flight operations on the route will further provide a catalyst to trade & tourism of the region.
    • This scheme will improve the standard of living in the country.
    • Through this scheme, air travel will be made affordable and widespread.
    • Unserved regions have received the direct and indirect benefits of air connectivity for their economic development.

    Challenges associated with UDAN Scheme

    • Pandemic: A whopping majority of 300 routes have been affected due to poor demand.
    • Market-driven scheme: UDAN’s failure draws largely from the fact that it is a market-driven scheme which makes it incumbent on the government to make the routes far more lucrative for airline operators.
    • High operating costs: The civil aviation ministry has also conceded to the parliamentary panel that the aviation industry is a difficult ecosystem to be in considering the low yields and high operating costs.
    • Delayed upgradation of infrastructure: The slow progress of UDAN implementation is attributable to delayed upgradation of infrastructure and readiness of airports, lack of adequate right of way (including insufficient runway lengths) at some of the RCS airports and delays in securing necessary regulatory approvals. 
    • Lower demand: Low demand on few routes awarded, adverse and unpredictable weather conditions lead to inconsistent operations and have also resulted in the closure of operations by some airlines in a few cases.
    • Others: Delays in obtaining commuter operator permits by new airline entrants, non-availability of suitable aircraft, aircraft leasing issues, long lead time for delivery and thorny maintenance issues of small aircraft as well as bothersome problems in procuring spares from abroad.

    Way Forward/ Suggestions 

    • Viable regional aviation ecosystem: Developing a competitive and viable regional aviation ecosystem is critical to support the orderly growth of Indian aviation.
    • Most important is the need to develop airports in these areas to make them operationally feasible for 70-80 seater aircraft.
    • Accessibility: The government should also ensure accessibility of these airports from nearby catchment areas. 
    • Taxes on fuel need to be reduced: which has been a demand in the industry for a long time.
    • The Civil Aviation Ministry launched a special round of UDAN 4.1 in respect of cancelled and non-operationalised routes. 

    Source: PIB