What is the UDAN scheme?

The government of India also launched the Ude Desh ka Aam Naagrik or UDAN programme in 2016, which is a regional airport development program. The UDAN programme aims to make air travel accessible and affordable to all, while also upgrading under-serviced air routes and improving regional connectivity in the country, thereby, leading to economic development. The Union Budget 2023-24 allocated Rs. 1,244.07 crores for the UDAN scheme. After four rounds of bidding under the scheme, around 469 new routes have commenced operations and around 74 airports have been made operational. The Airports Authority of India (AAI) and other airport developers have taken up the development of new and existing airports with a projected capital expenditure of approximately Rs. 98,000 crore in the next five years. Since the launch of the scheme, it is estimated that 0.3 million passengers have benefited from the scheme in 2017-18. The number increased to 1.2 million in 2018-19 and 1.5 million in 2020-21, and eventually to 3.3 million in 2021-22. It is estimated that overall around 11.3 million passengers have flown under the RCS/UDAN scheme so far.
Similarly, another scheme which has been institutionalised by the Government of India (GoI) to improve the civil aviation sector is the NABH (NextGen Airports for BHarat) Nirman Scheme. The initiative aims at improving passenger amenities, promoting cargo handling facilities, and early operationalisation of 56 new airports under the UDAN key initiative. The government has also introduced the Small Aircraft Scheme (SAS) whereby 184 routes have been awarded to the Selected Airline Operators for the operation of RCS flights. As per a report by the International Civil Aviation Organization, a better air service provides a three per cent growth in the economy and increases employment by six per cent. Due to the UDAN scheme, there has been a massive boost to employment in sectors such as airport operations, aircraft maintenance, and air traffic control. The focus on regional connectivity and air travel boosts tourism in the area, leading to a multiplier effect on economic growth. Businesses in smaller Tier II and Tier III cities have also seen an increase in the past few years due to improved air connectivity in those areas.

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