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New aviation minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju meets key officials

LiveMint logoLiveMint 28-05-2014 Tarun Shukla

New Delhi: Civil aviation minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju Pusapati, who is still to take charge of his ministry, met key aviation ministry officials on Wednesday to take stock of the sector.

Pusapati met Air India chairman Rohit Nandan, Airports Economic Regulatory Authority chairman Yashwant Bhave, Director General of Civil Aviation Prabhat Kumar and aviation secretary Ashok Lavasa, who called upon the new minister in the capital.

“I will be taking charge tomorrow,” said Pusapati, who has been staying at the Andhra Pradesh state guest house, not far from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) headquarters, in an interview.

Pusapati, 63, hails from the royal family of Gajapati from Vizianagaram and is a seven-time Andhra Pradesh member of the legislative assembly (MLA) who has served as finance and revenue minister in the Telugu Desam Party-led state governments of the late N.T. Rama Rao and N. Chandrababu Naidu.

Minister of state for aviation Gowdar Mallikarjunappa Siddeshwara, who belongs to the BJP’s Karnataka unit, has already taken charge of his portfolio. The civil aviation ministry has prepared a detailed presentation for the new ministers on issues related to the sector which are likely to be discussed this week, followed by presentations by each of the regulatory bodies, said a government official who declined to be named.

The issues include policies and regulations that are awaiting clearance including changes to the Aircraft Act, the same official said.

Another senior government official who met Pusapati on Wednesday described the minister as a good listener who didn’t seem to have any preconceived notions.

“It’s good to have someone who is open to ideas and appears to be affable,” said this official, who too declined to be named.

Consulting firm Capa noted in a report that the previous BJP-led government that was in power in 1999-2004 had opened up aviation to several private operators, and put in place several new policies.

“Indian aviation was transformed as a result of this reformist period,” it said.

In the decade since the BJP’s exit from power, India’s domestic air traffic grew at a compounded annual growth rate of 14.3% and international traffic expanded at 10.8%. Some 40,000-50,000 new jobs have been created directly in the aviation industry with some $30 billion of investment.

Still, there has been no focus on strengthening institutional capabilities since 2004, Capa said, suggesting a reduction in sales tax on jet fuel was key towards lifting the sector that has been weighed down by debt and accumulated losses in the face of high operating costs.

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