Few points and observations, on the recent visit of Civil Aviation Minister [MOS] Jayant Sinha with the CMD of Spicejet, Ajay Singh at Surat [STV].
Surtis having not humiliated enough by the recent "Flying Visit" of the PMO to Surat, where again rolling red carpets for the MOCA - MOS and surely enough for the CMD of Spicjet which was making a comeback eluding Surat for almost 30 months.
As usual, sections of Media, Social Media and others were all excited and getting prepared, evidently so that the City Salons were booked for days in advance for facials and beauty treatment. Some even went for new designer wears and wanted to paint the town Red, arguably some wanted it Hunger-strikingly White.
A few even dusted their Airbus replicas.....after all whether the city gets Flights or Jumlas but "Ek Selfie to banti hai naa...."
Though however lucid his approach was to the lapping up audience; as if a grand mother was narrating a fairy tale to a bunch of children and however politically correct the minister was putting across his act, here are some of the ambiguities left behind by him.
Apologies Mr Minister and Surti lalas for the bubble burst.....
1. Flight to Patna/Ranchi: Now whoever asked for a flight to Patna in the first place, sure you wanted to appease a segment of your vote bank. What are the odds that an average Surti wanting to fly to Ranchi or Patna as against Bangaluru, Kolkata, Chennai or for that matter even Goa, Pune, or Kochi. It will be surprising if these two cities fall in the top 10 destinations to fly from from Surat.
However the rule of "jiski lathi uski bhains" applies, surely some CRaP minded person must have made suggestions out of its empty head, or wait, is there an election coming up soon out there!!
2. Land Acquisition: Apparently it seemed that the Mayor and the elected representatives were carrying in their pockets, the 7/12 copies of the 800 odd hectares of land that is yet to be acquired for the extension of the Airport to upgrade it to International level along with the most needed 4 km long runway for transition of larger aircraft. How would they even publicly nod knowing that the most of the land is owned by the local bigwigs whose clout reaches out to the previous CM of Gujarat. Yet so easily Jayant Sinha agreed on 'making' an International Airport as he glided with ease......iska bhi problem nahi hai. Yeah right.
3. Runway extension: A minister of Civil Aviation seldom does an actual site visit to any of the airports, except for the red carpet and the ribbon cutting ceremonies. Odd enough that Jayant Sinha did not feel the need or importance of taking a reality check, literally by taking a stroll in an SUV to see the progress made in repair and extension of the runway. Apparently these facilities were added after the Buffalo Hit incident with the same airline who was to recommence connectivity after a 30 odd months of pull out. So much so for the enthusiasm for making speech's, that he let go this important part as a responsible minister. Arguably if he couldn't make himself available to see the 3 Km runway, it doesn't seem that a 4 km runway was ever to be on his agenda, except that he was asked to speak so for the bytes.
4. "International" facility: The laughable most part is, if the minister meant that by making glass door partitions within an open space means upgrading it to an "International facility Airport" then you have made the best fools off the 6 million citizens. So why on earth the same was not done at the first place?
The fact to the question is, that the TWO FLIGHT MYTH ("Locha" in Surti terms) was created to avoid any competition for the Airport from the neighboring PM constituency. So not only the domestic sector was curbed by this hoax hence even dreaming of International Airport at Surat was out of question. Apparently the same regressive mentality remains till date with 12 Million population of Surat and South Gujarat.
5. Terminal Building: Apparently there was no mention of the "Approved" plan for the extension of the current Terminal building, as it will remain as political bait for General elections in 2019. Now didn't he slide it off this major aspect of development with such an ease? In reality having a New/Larger terminal building with increased capacity and infrastructure is a pertinent matter for an International Airport?
Yes you will get International Airport, but wait till we come back later.
6. Slots: BOM sector is the most ignored route both by the National Carrier and the MOCA. As nicely chucked away by the MOCA duos, in the initial stages that they do not interfere in the matters of Private Airlines, they get better and better in using the same phrase of "Non-Interference" when the matter came about slots at "Private Airports". The ball is swiftly thrown in the courts of the MIAL under "subject to availability of slots' clause. In reality this is not the case with many other favored cities. It seems the "sleeping-partner" from Shivaji Park is giving a hard time to the man of "56 ki chhaati". So when it comes to getting the slots at BOM, the word is "yeh araam ka maml hai".
7. Other destinations: When it comes to other major destinations, apparently where they cannot cite reasons of "Non Availability of slots, the buck now stops at "availability of aircraft". Are you serious...???
Don't remember seeing any fine prints under asterix sign saying, "Subject to Aircraft Availability", when the new Aviation policy and the UDAN policy was announced. So in other words these policies were made without keeping the aircraft shortage in mind? Ironically 2 Indian operators have placed a combined order of 400-500 aircrafts, highest ever by any airline, any country, thus far in the aviation history. If MOCA doesn't have control over Private airlines then how come the National Carrier under the leadership of the "Turnaround" man cannot just churn around few aircrafts on lease for such cities of high demand and neglect.
Not even for a city of 6 Million population. Not even for an airport that could serve a population of 12 Million from South Gujarat. Not even for those 2 Million NRGs residing abroad. Not even for a Highest per capita income generating city in the country. Not even for one of the fastest growing city in the nation and the world. Not for a for a 'Smart City'..!!! How dumb is that.
International Flights: The minister left little to the imagination of the common man how the Government operates, particularly how the Ministry of Civil Aviation operates for the benefit of its citizens.
In first Place Honorable Minister A Raju and his mate, J Sinha were aptly clear that MOCA has no control over any Private Airlines and they cannot 'Force' airlines to operate from Surat.
However conveniently enough for the sake of forthcoming state elections, both were flying together on the same plane and assuming that at 36,000 feet above MSL hypothetically speaking, both went into a temporary state of dementia and momentarily forgot their roles as the MOS-MOCA & CMD of Spicejet.
In this state of dementia instead maybe they thought they were on an Air-force flight of the Marines flying to Guantanamo bay.
So like a Marine, the MOS, apparently had to arm twist (thankfully not waterboarding) Ajay Singh - who would not budge easily and hence not once, not twice but thrice, to get him to commit for Patna Flight, THEN for flights for other major cities like Bangalore, Kolkata, Jaipur etc and Finally for one International flight.
Him expressing of how much hard and how much more he had to arm twist so that Spicejet would Internationally connect Surat with Dubai or Sharjah, reminds of a crushing machine squeezing out the very last ounce of juice from a sugar cane, just as repeatedly done by the street vendors.
One remains bewildered with fear, amazement, and admiration as how much effort had to be put on something which their high offices blatantly refused to partake initially, but have now come down to 'low-arm-tactics' for the sake of pleasing the vote bank.
Bravo, what a way to get the job done and kudos for what an effective method of getting the job done..!!!
On the stage the CMD of Spicejet seemed very agreeable to whatever the minister asked for, but with the descriptive strong-arm-tactics.......sorry arm-twisting tactics of the MOS, he could only be too eager to instruct his PA to ensure that he never fly's with a minister on the same flight, ever again.
Hope Spicejet is already not contemplating to put Jayant Sinha's name too on the No-Flying list, with already the "Chappalbaaz" minister from his government and now an Arm-Twister being added to that list.
Flying, certainly is getting too dangerous, albeit from co-passengers, especially if they are 'Honorable Ministers'
8. CISF: If International Airport was a reality to happen in the near future, wouldn't it be prudent enough to have announced the arrival of CISF security cover for the Airport. Especially keeping in mind the lack of equipment, experience and exposure of State police for handling customs clearance for international flights.
9. Air Cargo Terminal: The Air Cargo Terminal arguably under the direct supervision of MOCA branch is still yet to be contracted. One wonders when the work will start to get finished by end of the year. Conveniently no one spoke about it. No questions were asked, in the fake euphoria created of hearing the word "International Airport" and the 'innocent' crowd cheering at that term.
10. No Dates / No Specific Time Frame / No Particular Commitments: At the end of it Jayant Sinha made a ride good on the back of Ajay Singh. He himself DID NOT commit to any thing but eventually he put everything else on the shoulders of the others:
Private Airlines-Subject to availability of aircrafts,
Connectivity-Subject to availability of slots
Runway extension-Subject to availability of land by the local administration
Ironically enough, but it seems this year the well known Surti Kite Flying Festival has been extended until summer.......so Surtis here it is for you......from MOCA - "Kai po chhe......" and what we hear the 'humble' followers acknowledging is - "Lapetyo chhe......" and while they are busy clapping and patting each others back for a job well done and for a selfie well taken, a lot of tangled yarn remains to be sorted & rolled.
More the reason to be resolute and make this dream come true.