'Reducing VAT On Fuel Will Bring Down Airfare'

25 June 2014
Rising Kashmir
Junaid Kathju

Srinagar: Civil Aviation Department of GoI has said that state government can bring down steep hike in the airfare to a desired level by reducing VAT on fuel. It has also expressed its helplessness to control the steep increase in air fare on Kashmir route during the peak season. In its reply to a notice shot by State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) following a petition pleading that as compared to other destinations, hike for travel to Kashmir is totally unfair and by all standards is aimed to scuttle the flow of tourists to the valley, the civil aviation department has put the ball in state government's court. 'The initiative of state government on reduction of charges under their control like reduction of VAT on fuel uplifted from within the state, underwriting of seats, etc may bring the airfare to desired level. With regard to responsibilities of Directorate General Civil Aviation (DGCA), it is stated that this office has not been delegated powers to control airfare establishing mechanism of airlines,' Lalit Gupta, Joint Director General for director general of civil aviation, has said in his reply to SHRC notice. It further said, 'Airlines are free to fix the reasonable tariff under the provision of Sub-rule (1) of rule 135, aircraft rules 1937 having regards to all relevant factors, including the cost of operation, characteristics of service, reasonable profit and the generally prevailing tariff.' 'Airlines have to comply the regulatory provisions of Rule 135 as long as the fare charged by them does not exceed the fare established and displayed on their website,' Joint director general of DGCA Lalit Gupta has written. 'With regards to responsibilities of DGCA, it is stated that this office has not been delegated powers to control airfare establishing mechanism of airlines,' letter reads. On March 26, Minister for Tourism Ghulam Ahmad Mir while talking to Rising Kashmir admitted that neither state nor centre has any say to fix the prices of air tickets of the airlines. We don't have any authority to prevail over the private airlines regarding fixing of air fares. All we can do is to suggest private airlines to regulate the airfare but at the end of the day it is up to them to finalize the air fare,' Mir told Rising Kashmir. Mir said even though State government had taken up the matter with Civil Aviation Ministry 'but to no avail'. 'Last month, we had meeting with Union Civil Aviation Ministry to fix the upper cap of the airfare. However, the minister also didn't show any positive sign. 'Mir Sahab Mushkil Hai, minister told me,' Mir said. Just as the tourist season has set in Kashmir, steep increase in air fares has made travel to Valley a costly affair. Travelers coming from various parts of India complained that the airlines operating on Kashmir route fleeced them. Passengers traveling from Delhi and other cities to Kashmir are getting tickets at higher rates in comparison to Dubai and other Asian countries. Meanwhile, in a letter DGCA stated that with regard to control airfare, the state governments are important stake holders. 'The initiative of State government on reduction of charges under their control like reduction of VAT on fuel uplifted from within the state, underwriting of seats, etc may bring the airfare to desired level,' letter reads. Earlier, Tourism Minister told Rising Kashmir 'The least the state government and centre can do is to minimize the taxes on air fare. Both centre and state government is working on it and hopefully something would come out.'