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The Union Minister of Women and Child Development, Maneka Sanjay Gandhi gave away certificates of increased pension to the first ten pensioners
The Union Minister of Women and Child Development, Maneka Sanjay Gandhi presided over a function to launch the New Guaranteed Minimum Pension Scheme of Government of India in Dehradun. The Minister gave away certificates of increased pension to first ten pensioners. The government announced the launch of a guaranteed minimum pension of Rs1,000 per month under the Employees Pension Scheme, 1995.
Under the new scheme, the pension has been increased from Rs650 to Rs1,000. Also, the maximum wage limit for eligibility has been increased from Rs6,500 per month to Rs15,000 per month.
Speaking on the occasion, Maneka Gandhi said that this measure has been taken by the government to provide increased social security to workers through the Pension Scheme.
The Minister said that the pension is a small token of gratitude which the nation pays to workers who spend a life time in building the nation through their hard work. Maneka Gandhi also explained the benefits of integrating Jan Dhan Yojana and Employees Scheme which will now enable the Pension to go directly into the accounts of the workers.
The Minister also gave a preview of Swachch Bharat Yojana of the government and its critical applicability to an environmentally fragile state like Uttarakhand.
Civil Aviation Ministry plans to make ‘regional connectivity’ obligatory for new airlines, so that these do not become, ‘non-performing-assets!’
Vistara, Tata-SIA joint venture, was originally scheduled to start its operations during the festive season. It may not be able to do so, as it still has to secure several technical approvals. If the experience is any criterion, it generally takes about eight months to obtain an Air Operating Permit (AOP). Pending approvals include flight operation manuals and other related procedures. Now, why these procedures should take as many as eight months (or about 240 days) to accomplish is a tough question to answer, and it is best left to the Civil Aviation Ministry to clarify as to whether this time frame can be brought down, at least for future applicants.
In fact, Vistara had proposed to start its operations with two aircrafts and complete its fleet of 20 by the end of 2015.
In the meantime, the Civil Aviation Ministry finds that only 75 of the 125 airports are being actually used. It plans to make “regional connectivity" obligatory for new airlines, so that these do not become, "non-performing-assets!” This was stated by the Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju, while speaking to journalists, on the sidelines of the 65th AGM of the Aeronautical Society of India (AeSI), Hyderabad Chapter recently.
Perhaps, the minister hopes that by making this mandatory, these under (or practically unused) utilised airports bring about some activity!
While the idea is laudable to support these airports, it may be worthwhile to suggest that the new domestic airlines may be encouraged to schedule, at least one flight a week, so that the benefits start accruing to all concerned? We must bear in mind that if almost all the domestic airlines are at a "loss" and make a "stop-over" at such airports, it may add to their woes! Why not suggest to these airlines to "adopt" at least one airport so that, in course of time, it develops more fully?
Vistara, which has not yet started to operate, because it is still in the "process of completing the formalities and trying to get the required clearances", has appealed to the Civil Aviation Ministry that new airlines be given at least one year grace period before the "regional connectivity" rule is applied to them! In fact, they have gone one step ahead, and boldly suggested that this rule may be made applicable if and when the airline is permitted to fly to international destinations! This is the first time that they have shown interest in "foreign" travel!
The second issue that Vistara has raised is its interest to fly abroad. But it pointed out that the 5/20 rule - meaning five years of domestic air service and fleet of 20 aircraft -is a hurdle. However, other domestic operators, who have gone through this exercise, and who are members of the Federation of Indian Airlines, have protested that the government should not relax this rule, as it will give unfair advantage to new comers!
In the meantime, Air Asia, attempted to become a member of Federation of Indian Airlines (FIA). It has met with a stony silence. FIA has neither invited them nor acknowledged their letters! FIA is a joint forum of Indian carriers like Air India, Jet Airways, IndiGo, SpiceJet and GoAir! It should follow, that Vistara will also get similar treatment when it applies for membership!
If the Civil Aviation Ministry decides to withdraw this 5/20 rule, it is just possible that passenger traffic will increase and the load factor will increase to a respectable 50%.
Already, the Aviation Minister, Ashok Gajapathi Raju has shown his seriousness in following up with various states to tackle the issue of tax on Airport Turbine Fuel (ATF) and reduction in airport charges. Some like Andhra Pradesh have responded to lower tax on ATF, while others like Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Punjab have shown interest to do follow suite. So, one of the many ways by which the smaller regional airports could attract domestic carriers to make their airport as the hub or even as a secondary support airport, would be to offer attractive lower airport charges, besides making drastic concessions on ATF!
Some airlines may be persuaded to "adopt" these small regional airports, so that business can be brisk and rewarding to both!
(AK Ramdas has worked with the Engineering Export Promotion Council of the ministry of commerce. He was also associated with various committees of the Council. His international career took him to places like Beirut, Kuwait and Dubai at a time when these were small trading outposts; and later to the US.)