Vadodara: Accusing previous governments of having "no vision" for aviation, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on Saturday, said his government is working in a "mission mode" for expansion of the sector and has put in place the country's first integrated policy to tap the potential of small cities.
He was speaking after dedicating the new integrated terminal building of the airport here, which is now the second green airport of the country after Kochi.
PM Modi noted that India in the near future would probably become the third country in the world in terms of airport activity benchmarks with more middle-class families aspiring to travel by air.
The Prime Minister said the country is very huge and "if you think only 80 to 100 airports not enough, then we are trying to create hurdles in the country's growth".
He said the the country's development can take new dimensions if the tier-2 and tier-3 cities are bought on the aviation map and noted that government was making efforts to revive the large number of non-functional airstrips and airports in the country.
"That is why to promote this, the government brought out a new regional connectivity scheme under which people can travel with airfares of only Rs 2,500 for up to 500 kms distance," he said.
Attacking the previous governments, he said, "Earlier airports were set up, planes would fly but the country did not have an aviation policy.
"How to take the sector forward in next five or ten years and take care of its and passengers' needs, what should be done for common people, there was no vision in place earlier. It was just moving," he said.
"After the new NDA government came to power, for the first time since independence it formulated a new aviation policy for the country... we are working in a mission mode for expansion," he said.
The PM said the new aviation policy will take care of the consumers' needs and the growth of the sector.
"It is estimated that within five years, the situation in India would be such that the airports in the country would have as much footfall in a year as America's total population.
"You can well imagine how this sector is growing. India in the near future would probably become the third country in the world in terms of airport activity benchmarks. This will help increase employment opportunities and would spur economic activity," he said.
According to International Airport Transport Association, India will add 322 million new passengers out of the total 442 million passengers by 2035. It has also forecast that the country will become the third largest aviation market in the world displacing the UK by 2026.
Last fiscal, the country registered a growth of 21.6 per cent in the number of air travellers.
Spread in an area of 17,500 sq mt, the new integrated terminal has been built at a cost of Rs 160 crore. It has been designed to handle 700 passengers, including international fliers, per hour with 18 check-in counters, which would help in a seamless boarding process.
It took about seven years to complete the project as the then Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel had laid the foundation stone in 2009.
The 8,100-meter-long runway of the Vadodra airport can handle small and narrow body aircraft such as Airbus 320 and Boeing 737s. Besides national carrier Air India, private airlines likes IndiGo and Jet aiways are operating from This airport will be zero discharge, waste to wealth, energy saving and environment friendly, the PM said.
Claiming that his government had taken a number of steps to promote the aviation sector, Modi said, "I am happy that after the formation of the new NDA government, two airports in the country have become a part of the green movement."
He said when such iconic buildings come up, the common people get encouraged to use economically viable and environment-friendly technology.
"Connectivity plays an important role in the world today, both physical and digital connectivity is required and if we need highways, we also need I-ways (Information ways).
"Similarly, air traffic is also needed. Air services are required in a big way for growth of tourism in the country. Better air connectivity means more tourists and this means better economic growth. There are immense possibility for tourism growth in India. Keeping that in view, this government has decided to promote the aviation sector," he said.
Referring to the first Railway University to be set up here, PM Modi said it will impact the next century.
"The government has taken a very important decision whose impact will be felt for nearly 100 years. And the decision is that country's first railway university will be constructed in Vadodara," PM Modi said addressing public after inaugurating the terminal.
The PM said the varsity will help in carrying out innovation and modernisation for the Indian Railways.
Earlier, Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajpathi Raju said since the NDA government came to power, air passengers traffic has "grown by over 20 per cent".