Friday, September 24, 2021

Before Vijay Rupani govt stepped down, Gujarat sought Centre’s help to revive seaplane project

Vadodara: Just days before it was ousted, the Vijay Rupani government had begun looking for options to resurrect the much-hyped seaplane service connecting Sabarmati Riverfront in Ahmedabad to Statue of Unity in Kevadia in Narmada district that has been inoperative since April this year.

In a confidential letter, accessed by The Indian Express, then Gujarat Minister for Civil Aviation, Bhupendrasinh Chudasama, wrote a letter to Union Minister for Civil Aviation Jyotiraditya Scindia on September 1, seeking his “intervention in a sensitive matter”, proposing that the Union government could “provide the capital cost of Rs 120 crore to Gujarat State Aviation Infrastructure Company Limited (GUJSAIL) for acquiring two seaplanes as a “pilot project” for operation from Sabarmati Riverfront (SRF) to Statue of Unity (SoU).

New minister for civil aviation, Purneshkumar Modi, said that he has decided to write to Scindia again to expedite the revival of the service.

In an apparent tone of resignation that SpiceJet, which was given the contract, would be unable to resume service, Chudasama intimated to the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) that despite multiple attempts to help the operator with subsidies, the project failed to take off and is attracting “negative media publicity”.

Proposing a way out to resume the seaplane service, Chudasama requested a sanction of Rs 120 crore for GUJSAIL, a Gujarat government PSU, which is the nodal agency for the development of aviation and related infrastructure in the state.

The letter from the Civil Avia-tion Department, Government of Gujarat, states, “To overcome the negative publicity by media…, we proposed that a new method may be conceptualised to make this first-ever seaplane services dedicated to the nation by Honorable Prime Minister succeed. For this, a proposal, workable under tripartite Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between State (Gujarat), MoCA and Airports Authority of India (AAI), is submitted.”

According to the letter, the tripartite MoU between state, MoCA and AAI to launch the seaplane services connecting Sabarmati to SoU was signed on October 19, 2020, days before the actual inauguration by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the Rashtriya Ekta Divas on October 31, 2020.

Classifying it as a “request” under “priority matters”, the letter states, “The (Ahmedabad-Kevadia seaplane) service is non-operative since April 10, 2021. The state government’s Civil Aviation Department had done four consecutive meetings with M/s Spice Jet and a Viability Gap Funding (VGF) of Rs 50 lakh per month was also offered. However, the service could not take off. The seaplane services of Gujarat was the first seaplane service model in the country and many other seaplane routes are in the pipeline. Hence, this project requires to re-commence at the earliest.”

24/09/21 Aditi Raja/Indian Express

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