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Air connectivity boost to Jammu, Kashmir, Ladakh, Northeast under affordable UDAN 4.0 scheme

Debjit Sinha
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RCS-UDAN 4.0: Air connectivity boost to Jammu, Kashmir, Ladakh, Northeast! With an aim to enhance air connectivity to remote and regional areas across India, the central government has launched the fourth round of Ude Desh Ka Aam Nagrik( UDAN)-Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS). This has come after three successful rounds of bidding.

The Ministry of Civil Aviation is focusing on improving air connectivity in 10 states and four Union Territories. The ten states are; Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and eight North-Eastern states- Tripura, Sikkim, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, and Nagaland. Four Union Territories (UTs) are Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh, Andaman & Nicobar, and Lakshadweep.

Under the first three phases of RCS-UDAN scheme, Himachal Pradesh had four flight routes: Chandigarh-Shimla, Shimla-Kullu, Shimla-Dharamshala, and Chandigarh-Dharamshala. Uttarakhand had four flight routes Pantnagar-Dehradun, Dehradun-Pithoragarh, Pithoragarh-Pantnagar, and Hindon-Pantnagar. Jammu had two flight routes: Bhatinda-Jammu, and Jammu-Gwalior. Assam had as many as five flight routes: Kolkata-Tezpur, Jorhat-Kolkata, Guwahati-Pakyong, Kolkata-Lilabari, and Guwahati- Lilabari. Sikkim had two routes: Pakyong-Kolkata, and Guwahati-Pakyong. Meghalaya has one flight route in the form of Kolkata-Shillong.

RCS-UDAN 4.0 has focused on the revision of Viability Gap Funding (VGF) cap, promoting short-haul routes, clearly defined Prioritization framework, and flexibility to change the frequency of flight operation. Under RCS 4.0, the operation of seaplane and helicopter would be allowed, the Ministry of Civil Aviation said in a statement.

It has been learnt that higher priority will be given on airports that have already been developed by the Airports Authority of India (AAI). Then airports located Priority Area(s)- four UTs and 10 states will be given priority. After that airports located in areas other than Priority Area(s) will be given priority.

The centre wanted to promote short-haul routes by restricting the provision of VGF for routes with stage length up to 600 km. Beyond that, there won’t be any monetary support. This applies for the operation of Category 2/3 aircraft.