Usha Padhee, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA), talks about the importance of women in the economy as Women’s Day 2021 approaches. She also shares details on both domestic and international civil aviation operations, and by when she sees recovery for each of them.
Every woman is inspirational, believes Usha Padhee, adding that they possess the unique character of a caregiver while participating in the economy and in public life. “Women have the capability and capacity to take on any leadership role, whether in civil aviation or any other sector for that matter. I believe that every day is women’s day. This Women’s Day, we will again celebrate whatever has been achieved so far and what can be achieved. Air India may have an all-women flight, and one of the UDAN flights will also be inaugurated as an all-women flight,” she shares.
The aviation sector
Shifting her focus to the civil aviation sector, Padhee says that losses arising from the pandemic are expected to deepen further. “Internationally, there is already 60 per cent squeezing of demand, which is like being in 2003. That said, there is some good news as well – the SOPs and guidelines for opening of borders are gradually taking shape through air bubbles,” she says. MoCA’s measures and initiatives, as well as the collaboration between airlines, airport operators and all stakeholders involved in this sector, have made them go beyond the point of 70 per cent domestic passengers. “Aviation has emerged as a safe mode of transportation. We hope that during the coming summer schedule, we can reach some semblance of normalcy for domestic operations. International operations are much more complex since every country has different rules, constraints and screening. We have already established air bubbles with almost 25 countries, which has given access to around 100 countries to come to India because people from some countries like South Africa and South America can take different routes, as we have a lot of connectivity from Europe and the Middle East,” Padhee adds.She says that on February 17, new guidelines that were more comprehensive and based on risk analysis were issued. “Instead of stopping everyone, there would be differential treatment for high-risk countries, so that we can allow people to come to India and at the same time, we’ll also contain the transmission from high-risk countries. We may not be able to recover all the losses, but at least we will have resilience and recovery,” she believes. Padhee also hopes that 2021 would be good for domestic aviation operations.
UDAN soars higher
Padhee says that MoCA has already launched the fourth phase of UDAN operations. “We have allocated or awarded around 700-plus routes. Moreover, during the pandemic itself, we wanted to encourage airlines to plan and move ahead. Hence, UDAN’s fourth phase was announced in this period and around 78 routes in priority areas that had not been served till date or were not fully operational, were explored. This includes Northeastern states, the islands and water aerodrome operations. At present, about 317 routes have been operationalised. For instance, there may be about 150 new city pairs, including Amritsar to Patna Sahib and Mumbai to Nanded, which are pilgrimage sites. Even Kishangarh will be connected with Ajmer and Pushkar,” she says.
The Joint Secretary adds that some time back, around 40 routes were also identified by Ministry of Tourism that requested that they be put under UDAN. “As many as 23 of these routes have already been operationalised and there is also a plan to connect most of the ‘Iconic’ tourist places in India that will help boost both international and domestic tourism,” she says.