• Tax holiday and fuel rebates sought • Lack of political will alleged

Mysore, Apr. 7 (JP)- Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa, on his arrival at the City's Manda-kalli airport to kickstart the Vijaya Sankalpa rally, in a meeting with airport authorities had assured them that he will find ways and means of encouraging flights to and from the Heritage City at the earliest.

Sources privy to the meeting told SOM that the Chief Minister had been told that while the airport infrastructure was ready to meet all contingencies, private operators were not forthcoming beca-use the government was not prepared to yield to their demands for certain tax concessions.

One airport authority officer said that while Shobha Karand-laje was the District in-Charge Minister, she was pushing ahead for concessions and now that she was out of the way, things have come to a standstill.

One private airline, which had been vociferous in supporting the Mandakalli airport, is demanding a 28 per cent cut in aviation fuel and a year's tax holiday. Sources also told SOM that no private operator has come forward so far to operate flights in and out of the City. Mandakalli airport has been ready for action from the last two Dasaras.

Senior officers of two of the major airlines, who did not wish to be quoted because 'of political implications' said that it may not be viable to operate flights in and out of the City unless a tax holiday is given for at least a year for the companies to break even. It is further learnt that one particular airline has been demanding a 50 per cent slash in aviation fuel sales tax and a year's tax holiday and they would fly to the City.

When SOM spoke to Rajiv Kumar Gupta, the Mandakalli Airport in Charge, he said that it was but reasonable to ask for concessions in fuel prices and a tax holiday. He gave the example of Chennai, which apart from being an international airport, has a domestic wing that has flights to small tourist and business towns like Coimbatore etc. Gupta also cited the case of Tirupathi which has an operational airport with everyday flights to and from Tirupathi to other Cities. The then CM Chandra Babu Naidu had granted a year's tax holiday for private operators apart from aviation fuel concessions. "Why can't the State government do the same?" asked Gupta.

Gupta also said that the global meltdown had hit the aviation industry the hardest and recovery was extremely slow and it would be sensible for the government to consider tax and fuel rebates if the government is really keen on getting flights to city.

Meanwhile, it is learnt that the State Finance Department had been raising concerns about how Sales Tax could be reduced for this sector, which is strange as the City already has a Heritage tag and concessions could be given under this head. When SOM mentioned this to several officers, they agreed and wondered why the government was keeping quiet.

One of the Ministers, who had accompanied the Chief Minister, had said that the Flight Plan approval from the DGCA was not forthcoming and that he would speak to the DGCA authorities. But this is blatantly untrue if we go by what a senior Indian Air Force Officer posted here at the IAF centre said. He said that it was not the DGCA but the operators who have to file the Flight Plan with the DGCA for its approval and not the other way round. The Wing Commander of the IAF said that the buck was just being passed around and that the government was not showing enough will power to take a stand.

Earlier, Rajiv Gupta also said that there had been 140 chartered flights between April 9 and March 31, 2010. These flights have been small aircraft, some 10 seaters and others 40 seaters and the charters have been tourist groups, said Gupta.

Ranjan Abraham of Bangalore's Clipper Holidays, who runs charted trips to tourist destinations of Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, said that he could not understand why the Government was dragging its feet.

Courtesy : Star Of Mysore