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Cabinet approves civil aviation policy

New Delhi: The much-awaited national civil aviation policy that seeks to strengthen regional connectivity and tap the sector's high growth potential was today cleared by the Union Cabinet.

Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju said the policy is a 'game changer' and that the country's aviation sector is poised to become the world's third largest by 2022.

The policy has been finalised after nearly eight months since the Ministry came out with the revised draft in October 2015 and follows many rounds of deliberations with stakeholders. The NDA government had for the first time unveiled the policy draft in November 2014.

"NDA government clears India's first ever integrated National Civil Aviation Policy. This will be a game-changer for the sector," Raju said in a tweet. In another tweet, the Minister said India would be the third largest civil aviation market by 2022. "To achieve this, we need right intentions, vision, planning and execution," he added.

Significantly, India's domestic air traffic market logged the fastest growth in the world for the 13th consecutive month in April. The market grew at nearly 22 per cent during the month.

"India's domestic traffic soared 21.8 per cent, marking the 20th month of double-digit traffic growth and the 13th consecutive month it has led the domestic markets," global airlines body, International Air Transport Association (IATA) had said last month.

Initially, the policy was expected to be finalised in the last financial year as certain proposals were to be in effect from April 1, 2016. However, the government had been moving back and forth on the policy seeking to sort out the differences among stakeholders including on 5/20 norm.

In the run-up to the framing of policy, various provisions including the issue of international flying norm witnessed extensive debate, with legacy carriers opposing any changes to the rule, while start-up airlines frantically demanding its scrapping.

Significantly, AirAsia Berhad --a key stakeholder in AirAsia India had recently said that it was confident of the Government scrapping the norm. "...the ruling (5/20 norm) is expected to be revoked along with a new National Civil Aviation Policy (NCAP) to be introduced in the near future, given massive lobbying against it," AirAsia Berhad said in its 2015 annual report released yesterday.

The Ministry had received more than 450 responses on the draft policy.

Raju said the objectives of the policy is to "make flying affordable, safe, convenient", promote balanced regional growth, tourism, infrastructure and help improve the ease of doing business.

Regional connectivity, cargo, MRO and skill development would be the focus areas, he said in a series of tweets.

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