With India aiming to increase infrastructure growth with push for Make in India aggressively, the aviation policy has a significant role to play. The impact it creates on connectivity and regional development and the spillover effects are beyond quantification.
Six months from now, 43 cities will be mainstreamed on India’s flight connectivity grid, an outcome of the Udan scheme launched to spur regional flights covering distances up to 800 km.
These include a dozen airports where limited but irregular flights operate, and as many as 31 destinations that are not connected at all despite the existence of airport facilities.
The scale of India’s untapped civil aviation opportunities can be gauged by the fact that these constitute less than 10% of India’s inactive airports/airstrips — 394 out of 450 are dormant currently.
The Udan scheme is a critical component of the national civil aviation policy unveiled last June.
It offers viability gap funding to operators to fly smaller aircraft to such airports with a commitment to price tickets for at least half of the seats at ?2,500 for an hour-long flight.
In the first round of bids, 11 new or existing airline operators pitched for more than 200 routes.
The Centre has approved 27 proposals from five players, adding 128 routes to India’s aviation map.
The estimate is that this will add 6.5 lakh new seats with a subsidy of ?200 crore.
The most heartening aspect is that these include six proposals for 11 routes that don’t seek any subsidy under the scheme, proving there is an untapped economic potential.
The benefits for tourist hotspots such as Agra, Shimla, Diu, Pathankot, Mysuru and Jaisalmer — that would now be just a short flight away, replacing cumbersome road or rail journeys — are obvious.
But the significant multiplier effects of aviation activity, including new investments and employment creation for the local economies of other destinations could be equally profound.
Provided this model is sustainable and more regional flights come up under the scheme, the availability of slots at larger airports that would emerge as hubs could become an issue — particularly at capacity-constrained airports such as Mumbai.
The second airport at Navi Mumbai may help ease congestion, but that is still years away. I
n cities where new airports have been developed, such as Bengaluru, abandoned old facilities could be revived as dedicated terminals for low-cost and regional flights.
Separately, new no-frills airports must be encouraged where traffic is expected to hit saturation point in coming years.
Recently, four new foreign investors and a few domestic players have expressed interest in managing operations at state-run airports such as Jaipur and Ahmedabad.
This marks a revival in investor interest after a long lull. It is time to revisit provisions that offer existing private operators of large airports (burdened by debt) the right of first refusal on any new airport proposed within 150 km.
Most interested bidders for the Navi Mumbai airport stayed away over this clause.
Last but not the least, this development must start a rethink within the Indian Railways, as it could now lose traffic on some routes.
The opening up of the skies and increased regional connectivity is appositive reinforcement to the growth model we are envisioning in India. Increased competition and regional connectivity will help all sectors of economy and also create employment directly and indirectly. Further it will ease traffic and is a wake up alarm for railways.
Connecting the dots:
Critically discuss the role of UDAN in bringing about a turnaround in aviation sector in India especially w.r.t. regional connectivity and industrial development.
TOPIC: General Studies 2:
Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.
NCSEdBC in place of NCBC
Government decides to set up a National Commission for Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (NCSEdBC) in place of the existing National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC).
Different stakeholders such as – Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEdBCs) and the Forum of Backward Classes MPs – had asked for more effective and revamped NCBC, in the form of NCSEdBC. Present NCBC and the Parliamentary Committee on SEdBCs have also recommended for it.
The National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC) was set up in pursuance to the Supreme Court judgement in the Indra Sawhney & Ors. Vs. Union of India and Ors. case as per the NCBC Act, 1993.
Section 9 (“Function of the Commission”) of the NCBC Act, 1993, states as under:
The Commission shall examine requests for inclusion of any class of citizens as a backward class in the lists and hear complaints of over-inclusion or under-inclusion of any backward class in such lists and tender such advice to the Central Government as it deems appropriate.
The advice of the Commission shall ordinarily be binding upon the Central Government.
Backward class is such as class of citizens, other than SCs/STs which is included in the list prepared by Central Government for reservations in appointments in government jobs and admissions into government institutions.
Section 3 of the National Commission for Backward Classes Act provides that the Commission shall consist of five Members, comprising of
a Chairperson who is or has been a judge of the Supreme Court or of a High Court;
a social scientist;
two persons, who have special knowledge in matters relating to backward classes; and
a Member-Secretary, who is or has been an officer of the Central Government in the rank of a Secretary to the Government of India.
Functions & Powers of the Commission
As mentioned earlier, the primary function of the NCBC is to examine requests for inclusion of any class of citizens as a backward class in SEdBC lists and hears complaints of over-inclusion or under-inclusion of any class in such lists and to tender advice to the Central government.
The advice of the commission is generally binding upon central government.
Further, NCBC has to be consulted by the Central government while undertaking the periodic revision of SEdBC lists “with a view to excluding from such lists those classes who have ceased to be backward classes or for including new backward classes”.
The commission has powers of a civil court in the below matters:
summoning and enforcing the attendance of any person from any part of India and examining him on oath
requiring the discovery and production of any document
receiving evidence on affidavits
requisitioning any public record from any court or office
issuing summons for the examination of witnesses and documents and
any other matter which may be prescribed by the Central Government.
Report of the Commission
The Commission presents an annual report to the Central Government. The report contains the full account of its activities during the previous year. The Central Government places the report before each House of Parliament, along with a memorandum explaining the action taken on the advice tendered by the Commission. The memorandum should also contain the reasons for the non-acceptance of any such advice.
However, there have been demands in the Parliament and by the General Public for grant of Constitutional status to the National Commission for Backward Classes to enable it to hear the grievances of OBCs in the same manner that a National Commission for Scheduled Castes (constituted under Article 338) and National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (constituted under Article 338A) hear the grievances of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
National Commission for Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (NSEdBC)
The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi approved setting up of National Commission for Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (NSEdBC) as a Constitutional body.
The NSEdBC will be formed by making an amendment to the Constitution (mainly by insertion of Article 338B), and the earlier commission, NCBC, will be dissolved.
The Cabinet has approved the following:
(i) Creation of a National Commission for Socially and Educationally Backward Classes under new Article 338 B;
(ii) Insertion of provision after Article 341 and 342 viz. 342 A to provide for Parliament’s approval for every inclusion into and exclusion from the Central List of Other Backward Classes;
(iii) Insertion of a new Clause (26C) under Article 366 to define Socially and Educationally Backward Classes;
(iv) Repeal of National Commission for Backward Classes Act, 1993 and Rules framed there under;
(v) Dissolution of the Commission constituted under the Act of 1993;
(vi) Composition of the new Commission i.e. National Commission for Socially and Educationally Backward Classes, with a Chairperson, Vice Chairperson and three other Members.
Assessment:Setting up NCSEdBC in place of the existing NCBC, is it a good move? How useful would it be?
What should be the mandate of NCSEdBC?
If the NCSEdBC’s function and role are the same as that of NCBC, its usefulness for SEdBCs will be neither more nor less than the NCBC’s.
Reportedly, the NCSEdBC will be entrusted with the additional function of grievance redress of SEdBCs. (This is an improvement)
It is presumed that civil court powers given to the NCBC, provided to all commissions, will continue.
A new Article 342(A) will make it mandatory to take the concurrence of Parliament for adding or deleting any community in the SEdBC list. This will introduce greater transparency. It is more difficult to get a wrong decision through Parliament, which is under constant public gaze and scrutiny, than through executive orders issued from within the four walls of executive office.
Castes can be excluded only on the basis of objective data, not on anybody’s whims and fancies. Parliamentary scrutiny can further reduce the scope for arbitrary decisions.
SEdBCs require not only list-inclusion and reservation, but also comprehensive and holistic development and advancement of each community towards equality with Socially Advanced Castes (SACs) in all parameters of development and welfare.
In view of this, the Commission should be entrusted with the work of advising and guiding the Centre and the states regarding measures undertaken and required to be undertaken; monitoring their effectiveness and the progress of SEdBCs and each Backward Class, and all other related tasks. This was recommended by the NCBC in its annual report of February 2000.
The existing statutory composition of a judge as chairperson, a central secretary-level officer as member-secretary, a social scientist and two persons possessing special knowledge of matters relating to SEdBCs should continue. All five members should be selected on the basis of objectivity, repute earned through long and sincere service for backward classes and knowledge and experience of society, social backwardness and developmental processes relevant to advancement of SEdBCs. They should not be attached to any political party.
To infuse confidence in the SEdBC public, the practice of ensuring majority of membership from SEdBCs should continue. Due representation should be ensured for most and extremely backward classes, who form a good majority of SEdBCs, among them castes of artisans, service-providers, fisher-folk, indigent castes etc. The past two chairpersons belonged to most backward classes — this is a precedent worth continuing. One of the five members may be from a religious minority — the bulk of India’s Muslims and Christians belong to most and extremely backward SEdBCs.
The real danger that leaders have to protect SEdBCs from is inclusion of any socially advanced castes (SAC) in SEdBC lists. Certain SACs are making muscular efforts for this, knowing that they cannot succeed under the Constitution which provides for reservation and other social justice measures only for social classes who are victims of “untouchability” (SCs), victims of remoteness under vulnerable conditions (STs), victims of social inferiority or lowliness under the caste system (SEdBCs) and not for the poor or the unemployed.
The poor and the unemployed who do not belong to these three social classes, should be helped through means such as scholarships and educational loans, but not through reservation. Parties should resist the temptation of using muscular agitations of powerful SACs for transient electoral advantage. There should be a common moral code based on constitutional norms and morality emphasised by B.R. Ambedkar, which should be binding on all parties. Issues relating to SEdBCs, SCs and STs are too serious and important for the vast majority of India’s population and for national progress to be made a football in electoral competition.
There should be categorisation of SEdBCs into “backward”, “more backward”, “most backward” and “extremely backward” castes with sub-quotas, so as to spread the benefits of reservation and other social justice measures equitably.
The government should improve its credibility by instituting, in article or rules, the process of members’ selection through a bipartisan collegium.
In overall, the new national commission for backward classes must address the gaps and should meet long-standing demands.
Connecting the dots:
Critically discuss the functions and powers of National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC). Do you think NCBC needs an overhaul? Examine.
The union government has decided to set up a National Commission for Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (NCSEdBC) in place of the existing National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC). In your opinion, discuss what should be the mandate of NCSEdBC.