In a scathing critique, the Congress party has raised concerns over alleged discrepancies in the Union government's Ude Desh ka Aam Nagrik (UDAN) scheme, revealing that the program did not achieve its intended impact on most routes.
The criticism comes as the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) audit reports shed light on the scheme's performance.
Referring to the findings from the CAG audit, Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge took to X (formerly known as Twitter) to express his viewpoint. Kharge stated, "Modi government's promise to travel by air wearing slippers has turned into the air like all their promises! We are not saying this; the CAG report is saying this!"
He also highlighted that the scheme failed to operate on 93% of routes.
The Congress leader's remark harked back to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's earlier statement regarding affordable airfares on the Shimla-Delhi flight. PM Modi had expressed his aspiration to witness even a typical person wearing slippers travelling on an aeroplane, emphasising the rapid growth of India's aviation market.
Kharge further criticised the scheme's lack of transparency and independent auditing, saying, "There was no independent audit of the airlines either. The much-publicised Helicopter services also remained stalled. Didn't get 'Udaan,' just lies and jumlas!" He underscored that the nation would not forgive such incompetence from the government.
The UDAN initiative was launched in 2016 to enhance regional air connectivity and upgrade underserved airports, thus making air travel more affordable. However, the recent CAG report presented during the Monsoon Session of Parliament revealed concerning statistics about the program's effectiveness.
Out of a total of 371 routes that were initiated, only 30% (112 routes) completed the three-year concession period. Moreover, of these 112 routes, merely 54 routes connecting 17 Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS) airports managed to sustain operations beyond the stipulated concession period as of March 2023.
The CAG report also spotlighted "significant delays" in developing or renovating identified RCS airports, despite the budgetary support sanctioned by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs in March 2017. Among the 116 airports, heliports, and water aerodromes where expenditure occurred, operations commenced at only 61% (71) of these facilities.
As Congress continues to question the efficacy of the UDAN scheme, the government faces mounting criticism over its implementation, accountability, and transparency.
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