Final talks begin for new Indian civil aviation policy

New Delhi, Feb 18 (IANS) Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Thursday chaired a high-profile meeting to discuss the proposed aviation policy, amid hectic lobbying by domestic carriers for a level-playing field vis a vis foreign players, and demands for continuing the norms to fly overseas.

The specifics of the discussions, however, were not immediately available, even as Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju, who was also present at the meeting, declined comment to reporters on the margins of a seminar that he attended later, organised by PHD Chamber.

One of the most contested proposals, purportedly in the draft policy, is to discontinue what are called the 5/20 norms, that permit only those passenger carriers that have been in operation for five years and have a fleet of 20 aircraft to fly abroad.

The Federation of Indian Airlines (FIA), among other associations, had demanded that the matter regarding effective control of domestic carriers be settled first before the government decides to change or alter the 5/20 international flying norms.

Among the seven main scheduled airlines in the country, only four meet the requirements — Air India, Jet Airways, SpiceJet and IndiGo. The three others — GoAir, Vistara and AirAsia India — are not eligible under the present norms.

At the same time, several aviation research institutions such as the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation, have described the 5/20 rule as being damaging, discriminatory and anti-competition, besides preventing carriers from optimal fleet utilisation and expansion.

At the meeting of the group of ministers, those present included Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Road Transport Minister Nitin Ghadkari, Power Minister Piyush Goyal, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, Skill Development Minister Rajiv Pratap Rudy and Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu.

On Wednesday, top executives of Indian aviation met Minister of State in Prime Minister’s Office Jitendra Singh and said the government must not discriminate against domestic carriers, when the new policy is unveiled.

Those who met the minister included Aditya Ghosh of Indigo, Narayan Hariharan of Jet Airways, Ajay Singh of SpiceJet and Jeh Wadia of GoAir.

“No other country in the world allows substantial ownership and effective control of its airlines to be taken over by foreign airlines. India has permitted some airlines to operate, despite being effectively controlled by their foreign parent,” the organisation’s memorandum said.

The memorandum of the FAI, which claims to represent 90 percent of the Indian airline industry, also expressed reservations about the proposal to auction bilateral rights. No country allows auction of its sovereign rights to others, it said.

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