NEW DELHI -- Coming to the defence of the beleagured Air India, government today rejected the perception about the state carrier being the "leader in emergency landings" and asserted that there has been "zero accident" due to any poor maintenance.
Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajpathi Raju told the Rajya Sabha that every safety proceedure is followed in the Air India as "no deficiency" would be allowed in flying Indian aircrafts.
He said the performance of Air India has improved and it is making profit for the first time in 10 years.
"It is unfair to say that Air India is the leader in emergency landings... I do not go into Air India bashing at all. It is unfair to say this," Raju said while replying to questions in which opposition members voiced concern over emergency landings by the planes of the state carrier.
"During the last two years and the current year, a total of 120 incidents of emergency landing due to medical emergency and technical reasons have been reported to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA). Out of the 120 incidents, 102 were due to medical emergency and 18 due to technical reasons," the minister said.
Of the 120 incidents of emergency landing, 23 are attributed to Air India and the rest to other airlines, he said.
"We follow every safety procedure for all airlines including Air India. We can't risk people's life. No deficiency will be allowed to in flying Indian aircrafts in the sky," he said.
Replying to a question by Congress leader Ambika Soni, the Civil Aviation Minister said all incidents due to technical reasons investigated by DGCA and Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB) and safety recommendations emanating from the investigation reports are followed up for implementation with the concerned agencies so as to prevent recurrence of similar incidents in future.
He also asserted that Air India is making profit "for the first time in last 10 years" even as he stated that the aviation safety rating of India was downgraded during the UPA regime, a remark which drew sharp reaction from Congress members.
"Air India's all-time performance has increased. This year it is making profit, which is the first time in last ten years. It is making an operative profit. Air India is doing good work," Raju asserted.
Raju denied knowledge of any proposal from Kerala government for starting an airline by the state government.
"There has not been even an application...Imaginary questions are being asked," the Civil Aviation Minister said, adding "We have not denied any airline that has applied... Four airlines have got permission (in the last two years)... No such Kerala airline has applied."
During the debate, Congress member K C Venugopal had said the Kerala government had proposed to launch an airlines Air Kerala that would mainly cater to people from the state living in Gulf countries. He asked the Centre to expedite the proposal.
On the purchase of 68 aircraft by Air India during the UPA regime, Raju said the matter is before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) which has taken oral evidence and the matter is going to come up before the panel this month.
The Minister said that Air India has reported operating profit of Rs 8 crore in the last financial year (2015-16) as against the loss of Rs 2,686 crore in 2014-15.
Raju said there has been robust growth in the civil aviation sector which has grown by 21 per cent and at present, India is ninth in the world in terms of passenger traffic. The aim is to become the third largest civil aviation economy by 2022, he added.
The last two years have witnessed substantial growth in the civil aviation sector where the seats in flights have grown from 66,758 to 74,499 on daily basis, which is a 12 per cent rise, he said.
The Minister said civil aviation regulator DGCA will soon provide as many as 166 services online and the first set in this regard will be launched this month.
According to Raju, all airlines are strictly adhering to the route dispersal guidelines and performace of all of them was in "excess of target".
The national civil aviation policy is being formulated in consultation with all stakeholders.
With regard to problems faced by Air India in its Boeing 787 fleet, Raju said some bottlenecks have been sorted out as spares were available.
He also said the Ministry is working on setting up no-frills airports.
Sharma said despite the country's huge potential, it is getting only around 0.68 per cent of the world's overall tourist arrivals.
India received about Rs 1.35 lakh crore from foreing tourist arrivals last year, the Tourism Minister said, while noting that the sector provides about 12 per cent of the employment in the country.
To promote medical tourism, Sharma said the government is looking to provide electronic visa (e-visa) for medical purposes. "This is our effort," he noted.
According to him, e-visa is being extended to people from 150 countries and the facility has helped in increasing the number of tourist arrivals.
He also said that e-visa systems need reforms such as extending the validity and providing multiple entries.