Secretary transfer a wake-up call to the lax Aviation ministry?

The Modi government's decision to transfer out Aviation secretary V Somasundaran could be a clear sign to the Aviation ministry to shun its inertia and start performing. The lacklustre leadership here -- at both the top political and bureaucratic levels — has led to decision making getting stalled, in complete contrast to what what Modi stands for — speed. 
The ministry has been talking of a number of issues, none of which have been decided for months at end. The Aviation policy has been pending for several months and the new rule for Indian carriers to fly abroad is also yet to be cleared. The ministry's proposed replacement for existing the 5/20 rule -- that an Indian carrier be five year old and have 20 planes in its fleet to go overseas — has been panned by both new and old Airlines. 

New Airlines find it too complicated, with AirAsia chief Tony Fernandes saying it is easier to "understand Duckworth-Lewis method" of cricket. Old carriers are against the proposed replacement as it links their future flying rights to how much they fly within the country, despite the fact that they bled meeting the 5/20 norm. 

"The current Aviation set-up is clean but clueless. The US restored the top safety ranking of DGCA mainly because of improved relations between the two countries under PM Modi," said a senior Airline official. The other 'achievement' of AI getting into Star Alliance was also out of compulsion as the alliance needed a full service partner from India to meet the onslaught of Gulf carriers. With Jet going Etihad way and Kingfisher shutting down, AI was the only option for Star. 

Passenger-friendly moves like allowing boarding cards on personal electronic devices have been talked about for almost a year now, to no avail. The DGCA silently watched as private airlines raised cancellation and rescheduling charges. A review was announced but nothing was heard from the regulator after that. 

The ministry has been unable to find a solution to the Air India conundrum, so much so that it has not even found a person to head the Airline. AI current CMD Rohit Nandan's three-year term got over last August and he has been given an year's extension so that the ministry can find his successor. 

Both AI chief Nandan and DGCA head M Sathyavathi are set to be empanelled as secretaries any time now and move on. That could again leave DGCA headless and AI struggling under a new management. "AI is like a critical patient and needs a professional management. Ot cannot afford the luxury of a generalist coming as CMD and learning on the job about Airlines. The patient will die if it does not bet a specialist," said an AI insider.

Eesha Rohida [ MBA Mktg ]
Aviation News Editor

lax aviation station,