India started the 2021 summer schedule with 108 operational airports but the second coronavirus wave that has seen daily infections soar to record highs has pushed down the number even as efforts are on get more airports going.
In her budget speech of 2020, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman set aside money for 100 additional airports by 2024. While there are 495 airstrips in the country, adding another 100 is now looking increasingly difficult.
The Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS)—UDAN (Ude Desh ka Aam Nagrik)—is an ambitious aviation project of the Modi government, with Hawai Chappal in Hawai Jahaj as the central theme.
From the first phase to now, a lot has changed, though the theme has remained the same. While UDAN scheme has opened up places like Bareilly and Darbhanga, which are seeing good footfalls, major airports struggle to get traffic back after a countrywide lockdown in 2020 curtailed the movement of people.
The scheme also has routes like Hubli-Goa, a distance of 150 km that can be covered in less than four hours by road. Routes like these could well have been avoided and resources deployed judiciously on some other routes.