Friday, July 19, 2024

Don’t hide behind advisories, take concrete action: Congress’ Venugopal to Scindia

Congress leader K.C. Venugopal on Tuesday once again urged Union Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia to take concrete action to control rising airfares rather than “hiding behind” advisories and quoting “random figures”.

Venugopal and Scindia have been engaged in war of words on Tiwtter for last two days and have been trading barbs at each other over the state of the aviation sector and the surging airfares.

On Monday, Scindia hit back at Venugopal, who is also Congress General Secretary, Organisation, saying he was “cherry-picking” facts to attack the BJP government while forgetting the “step-brotherly” treatment meted out to civil aviation during the UPA rule.

Replying to Scindia’s long Twitter post, Venugopal tweeted that this entire “flight price fiasco” is unravelling the “criminal extent” to which the Ministry of Civil Aviation “neglected” passenger welfare and the aviation sector. “The more we dive deeper, the greater the mess we see. You have opened a Pandora’s box, Scindia ji,” he said.

He said that as per the ministry’s own affidavit in the Jet Airways insolvency case, airport slots are neither assets nor rights of the airline, but mere permissions granted on a ‘use it or lose it’ basis.

“In 2020, then MoS Civil Aviation Hardeep Singh Puri ji, in response to a Parliamentary Question, stated that Jet Airways slots were being reallocated on a temporary basis. In this case as well, if GoFirst is not using its slots, these must be allocated to other airlines on a temporary basis. Why is the govt treating the GoFirst crisis differently?” he said.

Venugopal also termed “laughable” Scindia’s assertion that the AERA (Airports Economic Regulatory Authority of India) is an independent body, noting that it is run by a sitting IAS officer and its other officers are appointed by the government, which also determine its budget.

“Is it independent in the same way that the ED, CBI and IT Dept are independent,” the Congress leader asked.

“You conveniently skipped the part where it was the Modi government itself which hiked the excise on ATF (Aviation Turbine Fuel) from 8 per cent to 14 per cent, before scaling it back to 11 per cent. When ATF constitutes nearly half the cost of operating an aircraft, these seemingly small changes make a huge impact,” Venugopal said hitting out at Scindia.

“You cannot hide behind advisories which have no legal bearing and quote random figures that fly in the face of exorbitant prices faced by consumers on a daily basis. Unless you take concrete action, and not create paper tigers, this crisis will not be solved,” he said.

He also hit back at Scindia for criticising the UPA government’s handling of the aviation sector and said that as far as the growth of the aviation sector under the UPA is concerned, the number of Indians travelling by flights grew from 30.3 million on 2003-04 to 91.8 million in 2010-11.

He said there was a 300 per cent increase, facilitated by historically high levels of economic growth and the creation of the Indian middle class.

“It was during the UPA era that low cost travel boomed, with the rise of Indigo, Spice Jet and Go Air (then a flourishing venture), along with the expansion of existing airlines, which ensured the Indian middle class took flights for the first time,” Venugopal said.

“However, the Modi government’s hollow PR is for all to see: As per the Ministry’s own admission to the Parliamentary Standing Committee in Feb 2022, only 22 out of 94 UDAN routes are in operation. The Shivamogga airport’s inauguration alone cost 21 crore, because PM Modi was cutting the ribbon himself,” he said.

The death of Jet Airways, the ongoing struggles of SpiceJet for many years, and now this GoFirst saga are all testament to the complete mismanagement of the aviation sector by the Modi regime, he alleged.

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