Hiting out at the senior Congress leader K C Venugopal for his airfares "skyrocketing" remark, Union Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia termed it as "ill-informed" and "shocking".
Venugopal criticised the Centre saying that Prime Minister Narendra Modi's statement of people wearing Hawai chappals (slippers) can now travel in airplanes sounds like a "cruel joke".
Scindia said that the Indian economy continues to be a beacon of hope at a time when the global economy is struggling.
Venugopal had on Sunday stepped up his attack on the Centre over rising airfares, alleging that the government has been incapable of preventing ''predatory behaviour'' on part of airlines and has ''facilitated a loot at the hands of crony airport operators''.
In a verbal duel on Twitter, Venugopal and Scindia are hitting out at each other over the state of the aviation sector.
Venugopal in a tweet said hard facts and everyday suffering of the middle class cannot be wished away by distorting figures and misrepresenting the actual facts on the ground.
Responding to the tweet, Scindia said, ''@kcvenugopalmp Ji continues to cherry-pick facts, and forgets the step-brotherly treatment given to civil aviation during the UPA Govt rule.'' ''FYI, here's what a hands-on approach looks like: there has been an increase in fares, mostly, for routes that were earlier being serviced by GoFirst.
"The Ministry not only took cognisance of the issue quickly, but also intervened by sending strict advisories to airlines to self-regulate fares. The DGCA is closely monitoring the same. Fares have reduced by up to 60 per cent, and are likely to decline further,'' the Minister said in a long Twitter post.
Scindia said that he expected Venugopal, as a lawyer, to be more diligent.
According to the NCLT moratorium order, airport slots granted to the airline have been frozen and cannot be reallocated, he said. However, 68 additional routes have been allocated to airlines to serve these routes, Scindia said.
''On airlines' capacity - the fleet size has risen by 75 per cent since 2014 (From 400 to 700 planes). Most domestic airlines have a healthy order-book, and they are taking up international operations to increase their share,'' Scindia said.
The civil aviation minister said airport fees and charges constitute only around 7 per cent of the total expenses for the airline, and thus, have miniscule impact on the overall air fares. ''Besides, had expected you to know that airport-related tariffs are decided by an independent regulatory body (AERA), and not the government,'' he said, slamming Venugopal.
There has been a considerable decline after the ministry stepped in, he said, citing data.
''It's unfortunate, but an expected INC practice to sit back and aim to skew public perception to suit your self-serving political agenda,'' Scindia, who is a former Congress leader, said.
''In that case, here is the UPA's track record. Pls answer - a. Why was NER not a priority for the UPA Govt? Not a single airport existed in Arunachal Pradesh & Sikkim till 2018. Today, NER has 17 airports, up from 9 airports, and are connected under the UDAN scheme,'' he said.
Why did three airlines – Kingfisher, Air Deccan and Paramount Airways – go bust during the rule of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA), Scindia asked.
''Today, apart from Akasa, and Fly91 that is also gearing up to fly by this winter, 4 regional airlines have taken birth under the UDAN scheme (STAR AIR, INDIAONE AIR, FLYBIG and AIR TAXI),'' he said on Twitter.
Air India was driven to the ground, a complete disaster by the UPA government, due to corruption and bad decision making, he alleged. ''Daily losses amounted to Rs 20 crore; annually- Rs 7200 crore. Why was taxpayers' money squandered away for fulfilling the UPA govt's needs?'' Scindia said.
The same airline today has placed the largest order of 470 planes in the history of global civil aviation, he pointed out and asked would this have ever been possible without disinvestment and saving crores of taxpayers money annually.
This is the true picture of the sector under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he said.
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