Civil aviation in India started in 1915 when Tata Sons Ltd inaugurated their Air Mail services between Karachi and Chennai. However, after independence its wing expanded in form of National carrier Air India and few other private air lines. Then after, it has been growing steadily till the world economic crash in 2008.
The boom period was, however in 2001, when the growth was phenomenal and lasted about half decade. Then the down fall started. What happened?
Corruption- This boom period was not only for aviation sector but for the entire country and the credit went to the government for opening up the economy. One never dreamt that it was the seed for the upheavals in our economy as that will bind India with the world economy and in its periodical boom and crisis.
But who cared? Hundreds of young boys and girls, who were mediocre but had money or could manage through loans or whatever, dreamt of becoming a pilot. They got into this business and once in, they realized that it was not as simple as they thought. The short cut was available. Equal number of middlemen/agent came to their rescue with an inflated price. The officials of DGCA were ready to oblige. New rules too were passed, not to stop corruption but to increase it. All sorts of confusing CAR to check the progress of “genuine would be pilots” faced such rules and were forced to go for short cuts. The corruption and red tapism went hand in hand.
Expenditure: The existing Aviation Companies were too busy earning profits to follow the nitty-gritty of Aviation Safety and they too went for short cuts encouraging corruption. Even to renew the aircraft license/maintenance/RT license etc, which were to be done yearly on regular basis, bribes became compulsory. In addition, government too started levying heavy price for its services. Renewal of Airport Entry Pass by DCAS costs more than the normal fee. Earlier to appear for all 5 papers for Pilot/AME would attract Rs. 75, now it is Rs. 500 for single paper. For issuing initial CPL, the fee was Rs. 500, but now it’s Rs. 5000 for single endorsement, in effect it’s now approx. 15,000 for initial issue.
Ground Handlers: On the line of foreign Airports, government started private Ground Handlers to assist airlines in helping ATC clearance, passengers handling fee, to keep the pilots and operational person out of this. However, as you may guess the charge for one arrival/departure is more than 40,000 INR and this was forced upon the operators. If an operator wants to this themselves, the Airport authorities will virtually, by force stall such action. Naturally, their cut is being jeopardized!! This question was raised by the author in DGCA, Safadarjang in Feb, 2012, in pre-election meeting, and naturally we were told that they will look into the matter. Later we did not even see this in the agenda, forget about “looking into the matter”.
It was not a surprise as to why the Government Aviation sector was opposed to Jan Lokpal Bill and Citizen’s Charter.
Passenger:-Global air traffic showed a general downward trend in May in line with the deteriorating global economic condition, with Indian domestic traffic recording a meagre year-on-year rise of 0.1 per cent, indicating a slowing demand.
However, Fuel Price, Airport Development Charges etc are rising without any hesitation.
DGCA Headed by Non Fliers: The worst situation for any aviation is that this government organization is headed by non-fliers. Having no knowledge of aviation, and worse a distorted knowledge, is hampering this sector. These officials, being corrupt are also high headed and are great impediment to aviation.
For example, the tumble in the European market has created the perfect medium for the Asian aviation companies which are readily establishing their market position in the old continent, particularly in the segment of long-haul flights. The companies based in the rapidly emerging Asian-Pacific region are swiftly increasing passenger flows from Asia to Europe and North America. However, knowing our Government and DGCA it will not be possible to reap any benefit from this.
Our government, as it is known, lacks any motivation in helping our aviation industry. Their sole aim is to stick to power and fill up their individual bank account in India or abroad. Well due all such many other problems our aviation has hit the worst hurdle in its journey till today. King Fisher, Jet, Air India, Global Vectra Helicopter Aviation and all other big or small operators are bleeding today. There does not seem a ray of light at the end of the dark tunnel.
Only hope is a transparent and honest government which will be charisma in our country. Still hope must be alive that we, the country of 120 Crores Indians, will wake up one day and make our society worth living and as a side effect aviation too will prosper same time.