The Modi government has launched a seaplane services between Ahmedabad and Kevadia and invited proposals from private parties for similar services on other routes. This could give tourism a serious boost and generate hundreds of thousands of new jobs in far-flung and hitherto little known tourist destinations.
New industries generate new jobs and spread prosperity by encouraging many other upstream, downstream and even unrelated sectors. Close on the heels of opening up the running of passenger trains to the private sector and unveiling plans for a nationwide inland water transport system, the Narendra Modi government has announced plans to launch seaplane serves between select locations – mostly tourist destinations and pilgrimage spots.
Not only will this open up a new sector that can generate thousands of direct jobs, but it will also increase the volume of internal tourist and pilgrim traffic to the selected destinations and provide a boost to the local economies of these places, generate employment and increase economic activity across the entire value chain.
The first such seaplane service between the Sabarmati Riverfront in Ahmedabad and the Statue of Unity in Kevadia, both in Gujarat, was flagged off on October 31, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel’s birth anniversary, last year by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Two flights are being operated every day by SpiceJet subsidiary Spice Shuttle. The airlines will be operating the 15-seater Twin Otter 300 aircraft for these flights.
Seaplanes have an inherent advantage over regular fixed wing aircraft as they can serve every function of the former without the need to build expensive infrastructure such as airports, airstrips, runways, etc.
All they need are lakes, relatively calm rivers or seas, backwaters, dams or other water bodies on which these sturdy planes can land.
Thus, they can help connect remote locations across the length and breadth of the country – from Kashmir in the north to Kanya Kumari in the South, from Gujarat in the West to Assam and Arunachal Pradesh in the North East and from Andaman and Nicobar in the Bay of Bengal to the Lakshwadeep in the Arabian Sea – and open up new opportunities in tourism, resulting in employment opportunities for local people and the spread of prosperity to regions hitherto considered remote.
The Ministry of Shipping and Waterways, Government of India, has formed a company called Sagarmala Development Company Limited (SDCL) that will develop new routes and encourage the growth of this sector.
“SDCL is desirous of associating with companies in the aviation sector (applicants) having experience of operating aircraft on a commercial basis. SDCL plans to form SPVs with such companies to jointly identify hubs/ origins-destinations, procure all clearances and approvals, develop land-side facilities/waterfront facilities, procure/lease seaplanes and develop and operate seaplane and facilities on the commercially and financially viable basis,” the ministry said in a statement.
“To start with, through this SPV, SDCL intends to commence commercial operations on the following hubs and spokes subject to the technical and financial feasibility of the routes (O-D pairs),” the statement added.
The ministry has said Delhi will initially be the hub for seaplane services, which will connect destinations in neighbouring states such as Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and the Union Territory of Chandigarh. The proposal also envisages connecting Srinagar in Uttarakhand to Kedarnath-Badrinath shrines and Chandigarh to Dalhousie in Himachal Pradesh. There is also a proposal to start a seaplane service between Delhi to Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh.
Other routes in the North East, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Lakshwadeep and Minicoy Islands, Andhra Pradesh as well as the states mentioned in the previous paragraph are being considered for development.
In fact, cashing in on its first-mover advantage SpiceJet has secured 18 seaplane routes, including Ahmedabad-Kevadia (Sabarmati River Front to Statue of Unity, Sardar Sarovar), Agatti-Minicoy and Agatti-Kavaratti, among others.
A few months ago, the Indian Railways had formally invited Requests for Qualifications (RFQ) from private sector companies to manage and run 151 trains on 109 pairs of routes.
By opening up new sectors and allowing the private sector entry into them, the Modi government is delivering on its promise of encouraging the growth of new industries in the country.
In the 1990s, the then fledgling IT and pharmaceutical sectors and the newly opened up automobile and aviation sectors had emerged as new engines of growth and helped India join the ranks of the world’s fastest growing economies. This had enabled millions of people to lift their standards of living and brought an estimated 300 million people out of poverty.
Similarly, these new initiatives as well as the opening up of hitherto closed sectors such as space, atomic energy and defence, is expected to create the second wave of mass prosperity in the years ahead that will help lift India from a lower middle income country to the ranks of the truly middle income countries.