ATF prices cause for concern, admits Patel

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New Delhi, Aug 11 (UNI) Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel today expressed concern at rising ATF prices, which he said, were adversely affecting the aviation sector.

Noting that the base prices of ATF in India was high primarily to subsidise other petroleum products, he told consultative committee of the Members of Parliament of his ministry here that high taxes levied by the state governments on ATF had compounded the issue resulting in high levels of ATF prices across the country.

The minister said he had raised the matter with the Prime Minister on several occasions following which the latter had constituted a committee under the chairmanship of the Cabinet Secretary to assess the financial difficulties being faced by the airlines operators in India and recommend measures for sustained growth and health of the aviation industry.

The first meeting of the body is to be held on August 14.

Meanwhile, work on the Kolkata and Chennai airports would start by September 2008 following PIB clearance. Detailed project reports had been submitted to the Centre for approval. The trial run of the third and new runway at the Delhi International Airport will commence on August 21 and once operational, was expected to reduce the congestion substantially, the members were told.

Other issues taken up at the meeting included the necessity of second airport at Delhi and an airport at Jhajjar in Haryana, since it is one of the states without any airport. Mr Patel said a Group of Ministers will look into the legalities of setting up of a second airport at Delhi in view of the agreements signed with the developers of the IGI Airport at New Delhi.

Also discussed were issues related to the facilities provided to the passengers by the low cost carriers, appointment of an ombudsman to address the problems of the passengers, development of airport infrastructure and functioning of regulatory authorities under the Civil Aviation ministry. Besides, air connectivity to the North-East, issues relating to the merger of Air India and Indian Airlines, connectivity to airports and naming of airports came up for discussion.

In the context of names, the minister clarified that while airports normally were named after that the cities that they belong to, in certain cases naming/renaming of airports was done after consultations with stakeholders and the final decision was taken by the Cabinet. He, however, clarified that the name of the Chandigarh airport would remain and not renamed as Mohali airport.

Members of the committee who attended today's meeting were Mr Santosh Gangwar, Mr Ratilal K Verma, Mr Ashok Argal, Mr Ramswaroop Koli, Mr Anandrao Adsul and Mr Deepender Singh Hooda from the Lok Sabha and Dr (Smt) Najma A Heptulla, Dr Farooq Abdullah, Mr Sanjay Raut, Mr Vijay Darda, Mr Thomas A Sangma and Mr Rajeev Shukla from the Rajya Sabha and Mr Rahul Bajaj (on special invitation from the Chairman).

UNI SD RL HT1727

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