Friday, May 02, 2008

Cuts in civil aviation outlay to hit NE projects

NEW DELHI, May 1 – Drastic cuts in the Plan outlay of the Civil Aviation Ministry by the Planning Commission may ground several on-going projects in the north-eastern region (NER) including the ambitious project to bring Sikkim on the air map of the country. The annual Plan outlay proposed by the Civil Aviation Ministry was pegged at Rs 10,170.27 crore, including budgetary support of Rs 328.94 crore. Against this projection, the Planning Commission approved an outlay of Rs 10,031 crore for the current fiscal (2008-2009).

Civil Aviation Ministry officials have confirmed that the cuts would hit the proposed Greenfield Airport Project at Pekyong, Sikkim, as the approved budgetary support component of Rs 190 crore does not include any outlay of Rs 45 crore proposed to be given as grant for the project.

A Parliamentary panel that examined the demands for grants for the Civil Aviation Ministry has said that the reduction in budgetary support to the Ministry would definitely have a negative impact on the expansion of aviation sector in the north-eastern region. The committee recommended that the Ministry should take up the issue with the Finance Ministry and prevail upon them to grant more funds to ensure that works for the project start well in time.

The Airport Authority of India (AAI) has undertaken several schemes for development of airports in the NER. The airports in the region are not economically viable, as operations do not generate adequate revenue to meet even the operational costs. In the wake of this, the North Eastern Council (NEC) and the Ministry of Civil Aviation jointly fund the civil aviation sector in the NER on a 60:40 basis.

The Plan outlay of the NEC this fiscal for the civil aviation sector is a meagre Rs 179.47 crore, while that of funding by the Civil Aviation Ministry is only Rs 20 crore.

The size of the allocations, prompted the Parliamentary Standing Committee attached to the Ministry to comment that enhanced funding would have helped the AAI to complete its on-going projects in time and make the aviation infrastructure at par with international standards and also cause a boom in the aviation sector.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee said it desired that on-going projects on the NER should be given priority by the AAI, so that necessary aviation infrastructure is developed in the region to provide air connectivity to the north-eastern States.