[Answered] Why it is said that Indian aviation has become ‘the sick man of India’? What are the reforms required to tap the potential of aviation sector?

Introduction: Contextual introduction.
Body: Write some points why Indian aviation has become ‘the sick man of India’. Also, suggest some reforms to tap the potential of the aviation sector.Conclusion: Write a way forward.

Aviation is integral to equitable economic growth, for a country to be globally competitive. The civil aviation industry in India has emerged as one of the fastest growing industries in the country during the last three years. India has become the third largest domestic aviation market in the world and is expected to overtake UK to become the third largest air passenger market by 2024.

Why it is said that Indian aviation has become ‘the sick man of India’?

  • Absence of robust competition: The growth of aviation has been affected by choking regulations, tough entry barriers for new entrants, high fuel prices and high taxes, and inefficient public sector airports are paving the way for monopoly airports.
  • High costs: It translates to less than 4% of the population (35 million to 40 million) who can afford air travel, placing India just alongside some poorer African countries, in terms of the per capita consumption of air tickets. Brazil, Malaysia, Indonesia and China are way ahead of India.
  • Poor rural connectivity: With mega airports controlling air and ground space, it is almost impossible to connect rural and small towns from the large metros.
  • Despite the regional airport development plan, ‘Ude Desh ka Aam Naagrik (UDAN) initiative, there is not much regional connectivity.

Required reforms:

  • The ‘Start-up India’ initiative must be promoted to the aviation sector.
  • It is critical to understand that for passenger airlines to grow, there have to be reforms in all areas of aviation,e., air cargo, airports, aviation fuel taxes (State and central, which in India are among the highest in the world) and Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO).
  • Since there are thousands of pilots and technicians unemployed in India, airlines should not look for foreign pilots and engineers as it can further push up the costs.
  • There is need to modify the India’s Aircraft Act, 1934 and Aircraft Rules, 1937 as it is necessary to keep pace with modern technology in aerospace, growth of industry and passenger.
  • India’s statutory regulatory authority, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, needs to be modernized, well-staffed, motivated, and incentivized.
  • There need to be aviation professionals in charge rather than bureaucrats for better functioning of aviation sector.

India has an inexhaustible market and largely untapped potential. That is what gives many of us hope. Policymakers need to make reforms to make the common Indian fly high.

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