At a time when the aviation sector is going through a critical phase, experts have welcomed the Modi government’s decision to appoint a former bureaucrat, Hardeep Singh Puri, as Civil Aviation Minister. However, they feel that Puri should not be given charge of additional ministries.
Besides Civil Aviation, Puri is also Minister of State (Independent Charge) of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs – that he was holding in the earlier Modi dispensation -- and Minister of State in the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
Ajay Jasra, former corporate communication head of IndiGo, told Outlook, “Keeping in mind the dismal conditions of the civil aviation sector, it deserves a dedicated minister, rather than a state minister with multi portfolios.”
At present, the aviation sector is facing various financial challenges. The grounding of India’s premier airlines Jet Airways has rendered over 14,000 people jobless. Last year, the government attempted to sell off its debt-laden carrier Air India but it didn’t get any buyer.
The Modi government’s pet scheme for regional connectivity, UDAN, has been largely unsuccessful due to financial and regulatory challenges. The cut throat challenge has forced airlines to offer seats at below their operation cost, which is not a healthy business model in the long run.
Jitender Bhargava, former Executive Director, Air India, agrees with Jasra and says that the aviation sector requires a person who is wholly dedicated.
“I hope his multiple portfolios are for a short time till the cabinet is further expanded,” Bhargava told Outlook.
Aviation veteran and founder of Air Passengers Association of India (APAI) D Sudhakara Reddy, is of the view that Puri’s other responsibilities are only a matter of few weeks as those will be allocated to National Democratic Alliance (NDA) partners.
“With his vast experience in the Indian Foreign Service (IFS), he will be able to make decisions in a quick and an effective manner,” says Reddy.
Puri, who belongs to the 1974 batch of IFS officers, served as the Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations from 2009 to 2013