Extend UDAN scheme to Kashmir: Tourism Body

With the skyrocketing airfares shooing away intending tourists to Kashmir, the Valley-based tourism players Monday asked why the central government was not extending its air travel scheme, which facilitates cheaper airfares to several destinations, to Kashmir.
The government of India in 2016 launched UDAN (ude desh ka aam nagrik) scheme to make air travel affordable for people through subsidised ticket prices and to provide air connectivity to smaller towns.

The aim of the scheme is to connect major cities with tier-II and tier-III cities at a price of Rs 2,500 per one-hour flight.
The scheme, if extended to J&K, can prove to be a boon to the state’s hospitality sector and ensure cheap airfares to passengers travelling to and from the Srinagar airport.

Presently, the tourism sector is bearing the brunt of exorbitant airfares, wherein a ticket in the Srinagar-Delhi sector costs Rs 8,000 to Rs 10,000 on an average. These fares skyrocket and reach the price range of Rs 14000 to Rs 20,000 per-ticket when the Srinagar-Jammu highway—the only surface link of Kashmir with rest of the world—gets closed.

In view of the losses incurred by them, the Valley’s tourism players have urged the central government to bring Srinagar as a destination under the UDAN scheme so that the airfares to the sector are reduced considerably. However, there has not been a positive response from the union aviation ministry yet, they say.
“Kashmir needs UDAN scheme more than any other state in the country. Our tourism sector is in distress, mainly because of the skyrocketing airfares. Due to skyrocketing airfares, even the intending tourists are giving Kashmir a miss as the travel packages to this place are much higher than the packages to the Middle-East countries,” said former president of the Travel Agents Association of Kashmir, Fayaz Ahmad.

He said the tourism players have taken up the issue of extension of UDAN scheme to Kashmir with the central as well state government authorities.
“But to our dismay, there has not been any positive response from their side as of now.”

President, Kashmir Young Entrepreneurs Forum, Babar Chowdhary who has recently submitted a memorandum of demands to the union civil aviation minister, said: “We raised this issue (UDAN) with the civil aviation ministry. I would urge other travel and trade bodies to pressurise the government so that it extends this scheme to Srinagar airport and makes air travel to this place cheaper.”

The central cabinet on March 7 approved an extra fiscal support of Rs 4,500 crore to support infrastructural needs for government’s regional connectivity scheme (RCS).
“The government will put in Rs 4,500 crore to revive and develop un-served and under-served air strips of state governments, Airport Authority of India, civil enclaves CPSUs, helipads and waterdromes,” the government said in its statement.

The Centre had started RCS in 2016-17 to make airways affordable for common man.
By capping fare of a one-hour flight at Rs 2,500, it agreed to compensate the airlines for the subsidized rate through viable gap funding.
The Centre has already allocated Rs 480 crore for the UDAN scheme during FY20. Consequently, the revised estimate for UDAN could now stand at Rs 4,980 crore at the end of FY20.

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