Usha Padhee, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Civil Aviation
The conclave on ‘Enhancing Global Air Connectivity for Odisha’ took off with a packed audience warming up to flattering tributes heaped on Usha Padhee(Soaring High) by the who’s who of Indian bureaucracy. Padhee, the incumbent joint secretary with the Ministry of Civil Aviation has been profusely credited with offering wings to the ‘aam aadmi’ to get a taste of that first flying experience. The aspirational hopes of the middle class have acquired wings courtesy UDAN or ‘Ude Desh Ka Aam Nagrik’ scheme. The program with its in-built provision of Viability Gap Funding (VGB) has not only made air journeys affordable for the masses but also eased concerns of airline companies on business viability.
At the inaugural session, top bureaucrats were in unison to acknowledge the assiduous efforts made by Padhee to organize a conference of grand proportion in Bhubaneswar. The conclave saw the coming together of ministers, policymakers, and CEOs of top international and domestic flight operators to confabulate on ways to augment international air connectivity for Odisha. The attendees brainstormed on strategies to enhance international flight connectivity from Bhubaneswar to global tourism hubs such as Bangkok, Singapore, and Abu Dhabi.
Padhee (Soaring High) set the tone with her mesmerizing address. “In the run up to this conference, we had three rounds of negotiations with the industry players. We have discussed the possibilities of commencing international flights linking Bhubaneswar with Bangkok, Singapore and Abu Dhabi. Also, to strengthen domestic airline connectivity, we have identified 18 airstrips in Odisha under UDAN scheme. Three of them- Rourkela, Utkela and Jeypore are poised to start air operations shortly. Air Alliance has committed to run flights between Bhubaneswar and Rourkela once the infrastructure related issues are ironed out”.
She (Soaring High) informed that 286 flights are operating every week from the Bhubaneswar airport New destinations like Prayagraj and Pune are expected to be connected with the state capital soon.
Padhee (Soaring High) suggested to the Odisha government to formulate an exclusive policy on Civil policy. She opined that the state government can conflate fiscal and non-fiscal incentives and consider offering VGF on some routes. The state government can come out with seat guarantee models besides offering some handholding assistance to the companies.
Her efforts bore fruition. As a fall-out of the meeting of chief executive officers of top airline operators, 14 new flights are planned to and from Odisha. Most of the flights are scheduled to operate between January to the summer of 2020. The planned destinations are Kolkata-Jharsuguda, Bhubaneswar-Varanasi, Varanasi-Bhubaneswar, Jharsuguda-Mumbai, Prayagraj-Bhubaneswar, Delhi-Bhubaneswar, Bhubaneswar-Rourkela, Bhubaneswar-Kalaikunda, Bhubaneswar-Bangkok, Bangkok- Bhubaneswar, Singapore-Bhubaneswar and Bhubaneswar-Abu Dhabi.
Besides spearheading the government’s efforts to accelerate UDAN implementation, Padhee (Soaring High) is the first woman CMD of Pawan Hans Ltd, the flagship helicopter service provider of the Government of India.