With the UDAN scheme soaring high, many small cities across India have been getting a new identity, and flying has become the new normal for many commoners. At the end of 2019, as many as 35 Lakh passengers flew under RCS-UDAN scheme. In the latest round of bidding under the scheme, dubbed UDAN 4.0, the Narendra Modi government is aiming to connect more areas in the North Eastern Regions, Hill States of North India, Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh and the Island territories.
Nevertheless, to get a perspective of how this Regional Connectivity Scheme makes an impact, let us see the example of Karnataka, a big state in terms of geography and population. The scheme has revived many airports across the state after UDAN. Recently, Karnataka’s Bidar airport received flight connectivity from Bengaluru under the scheme. A few months earlier, the Kalaburgi airport was also operationalised under the RCS-UDAN scheme. These places, which are situated in the northern part of Karnataka, finally were placed on the aviation map, thanks to UDAN.
The Scene Before
The international airports at Bengaluru and Mangaluru have made their marks in the state’s aviation map. A couple of other airports were in operation for namesake only; however, they had little impact because of the insignificant air traffic. If you take a look at Karnataka’s map, Bengaluru falls in the south and Mangaluru in the coastal belt. That means, a large geographical area of North Karnataka was bereft of air connectivity. Traveling to the southern part of the state would take hours on a stretch by bus or train, given the size of the state. This caused extreme inconvenience to a large number of people who came to the state capital Bengaluru for work.
The Scene Changed with UDAN
Before the implementation of UDAN, Hubballi airport used to handle one flight with two movements and an average of 3600 passengers a month. After the inclusion of the airport under UDAN way back in July 2018, the footfall of the airport increased sharply, touching 45,000 passengers a month. Further, with nearly 20 flights a day, it is now the busiest airport in North Karnataka, providing connectivity to Mumbai, Goa and even the national capital Delhi with the flight services to Hindon airport in the National Capital Region (NCR) city of Ghaziabad.
The impact of UDAN on North Karnataka cities like Hubballi, Kalaburgi, and Bidar getting air connectivity has been immensely positive in various way. For example, being an industrial city, the airport in Hubballi facilitates the movement of businessmen and MSME players to other prominent places, besides connecting tourists to world heritage place Hampi.
Kalaburagi Airport acts as a gateway for tourist destinations including Buddha Vihar, Sharana Basaveshwara Temple, Khwaja Banda Nawaz Dargah and, Gulbarga Fort. Moreover, Kalaburagi is one of India’s largest cement production centres, and the airport has helped to improve its economic importance further.
Bidar is known for its handicrafts and place of pilgrimage with the presence of Gurudwara Nanak Jhira Sahib. Additionally, it has on offer many tourist attractions like Bidar fort, and Mahals like Rangeen Mahal, Tarkash Mahal, Gagan Mahal and Takht Mahal. One can gauge the benefits of air connectivity to tourism and various economic activities surrounding it.
With the increasing air connectivity between the cities of Karnataka, UDAN has managed to re-energise some airports. As this report in the New India Express notes, Mysuru airport, once turned into a grazing ground, has regained its lost buzz. It is evidently made possible because UDAN connected the royal city with flights to Hyderabad, Chennai, Bengaluru, Goa and Belagavi.
More in Pipeline
A recent report in The Times of India informs that, “Five airports across Karnataka are expected to become operational in two years’ time. These include the Vijayapura, Shivamogga, Karwar, Hassan/Chikamagalur airports, besides the Bidar one.”
Karnataka seems to serve an example as to how schemes like UDAN can redefine connectivity, boost economic growth and create greater prosperity via tourism benefits.