Prime Minister Narendra Modi flagged off the first low-cost Shimla-Delhi flight and said his dream is to see a person wearing slippers fly in an aeroplane in the country….reports Asian Lite News
“My dream was to see a person wearing a ‘hawai chappal’ fly on the ‘hawai jahaz’ (plane),” he said in his almost 20-minute-long address in Hindi.
During his day-long visit to the Queen of Hills, which witnessed a light shower in the morning, Modi underscored the need to keep air fares within the reach of the middle class.
The Rs 2,500-an-hour flight launched on Thursday is part of ‘Ude Desh ka Aam Nagrik’ (UDAN) scheme that makes air travel more affordable to the common people. It also plans to enhance connectivity with more airports in the country.
The first regional flight under the scheme was flagged off between Shimla and Delhi from Jubbarhatti, the tabletop airport located 2,196 metres above the sea level and 22 km from Himachal Pradesh capital Shimla.
Air India subsidiary Alliance Air, which will operate the Delhi-Shimla flight, has fixed the one-way fare at Rs 2,036.
He said the UDAN scheme caters to the aspirations of the Indians, making flights cheaper than taxi fare.
“The lives of the middle class people are being transformed and their aspirations are increasing. Earlier, aviation was considered to be the domain of ‘Raja-Maharaja’ and the elite. That has changed now,” Modi said.
The Prime Minister said he foresees tier-II and tier-III cities as “growth engines” given the untapped potential of the country’s aviation sector.
“If aviation connectivity in tier-II and -III cities is enhanced, it will be beneficial,” he said.
“We had the opportunity to frame a civil aviation policy, which caters to the aspirations of the people of India.
“The UDAN scheme is going to help tourism in Himachal Pradesh,” Modi said.
He said that in the absence of an aviation policy in the past 70 years, a large number of airstrips were lying idle.
These airports will now be put to use under a policy formulated by the present government and 30 such airports will start commercial operations, he said.
Annual tourist arrivals in Himachal Pradesh crossed 1.8 crore (18 million) in 2016. The tourism sector’s contribution to the exchequer is approximately seven per cent of the State Gross Domestic Product.
Modi also laid online the foundation of a hydro-engineering college in Bilaspur district.
Accompanied by Himachal Governor Acharya Devvrat, Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh and Union Ministers P. Ashok Gajapathi Raju, Jayant Sinha and J.P. Nadda, Modi simultaneously flagged off the inaugural UDAN flights on the Kadapa-Hyderabad and Nanded-Hyderabad sectors through video-conferencing.
The Shimla airport had been shut for scheduled flights since September 6, 2012, affecting tourists and business travellers.
A regular to and fro Delhi-Shimla flight will be operated five days a week from Wednesday.
The seating capacity of the airlines under the UDAN scheme will range from 19 to 78. Fifty per cent of the seats in every flight will have a fare cap of Rs 2,500 per hour.
The airline companies chosen are Airline Allied Services (Alliance Air), SpiceJet, Turbo Megha Airways, Air Deccan and Air Odisha.
The operations under the scheme are intended to provide air connectivity to unserved and remote routes, the Ministry of Civil Aviation said in a statement.
The scheme caps airfare for an hour-long journey of approximately 500 km on a fixed-wing aircraft or for 30-minute journey on a helicopter at Rs 2,500.
The UDAN Scheme is a key component of the National Civil Aviation Policy released on June 15 last year.
On March 30, the central government awarded contracts to five companies to operate flights on 128 routes that will connect 70 airports in India.