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UDAN delayed: Stressed health of airline operators to impact existing route operations, future bidding

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(Ude-Desh-Ka-Aam-Naagrik)

The government’s UDAN (Ude Desh Ka Aam Naagrik) scheme aimed at enhancing regional air connectivity through fiscal support and infrastructure development, seems to have hit an air pocket.

As of May 31, 2021, only 47 per cent of the total routes and 39 per cent of the airports (unserved and underserved) have been operationalised under UDAN. The number of new RCS routes which started operations increased at a healthy pace and stood at 102 and 120 routes in FY2019 and FY2020 respectively, have declined to 77 new routes in FY2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

During FY2018 – FY2021, a total of Rs 3,350 crores have been incurred by the Central Government towards the UDAN scheme and the budgeted outlay for FY2022 is Rs 1,130 crores.

Giving more insights, Shubham Jain, SVP & Group Head, Corporate Ratings, ICRA, said that the slow progress of UDAN implementation is attributable to delayed upgradation of infrastructure and readiness of airports, due to lack of adequate right of way (including insufficient runway lengths) at some of the RCS airports and delays in securing necessary regulatory approvals.

“Low demand on few routes awarded, adverse and unpredictable weather conditions leads to inconsistent operations and have also resulted in closure of operations by some airlines in a few cases. The second wave of the pandemic, which started from mid of March 2021 would further impact the UDAN scheme going forward with aviation being one of the worst-hit infrastructure sectors,” he said.

The Civil Aviation Ministry has set a target of operationalising as many as 100 unserved and underserved airports and starting at least 1,000 RCS routes by 2024 (of this, 52 unserved and underserved airports and 357 routes are operationalised as on May 31, 2021). To improvise the RCS network and achieve its target of developing 100 RCS airports by 2024, the AAI has launched UDAN 4.1 as a special bidding round under UDAN 4.0 in March 2021 to award 392 routes.

“The award and implementation of UDAN 4.1 may get delayed significantly due to the second wave of the pandemic in India and its effect on the Indian aviation industry. ICRA expects the target of operationalising 100 airports under UDAN by 2026, with a delay of two years from revised schedule (of 2024 from earlier 2019). The weak credit profile of domestic airlines is expected to have an impact on the existing routes under UDAN scheme, particularly for smaller airlines given the stretched liquidity position, low utilisation in some of the routes and will also impact future bidding of routes under the scheme,” Jain added.

There has been a significant impact on the financial health of airline operators due to the Covid-19 pandemic. According to estimates by the ratings agency, Indian airlines will report a significant net loss of Rs 21,000 crore in FY21 and an estimated net loss of Rs 12,700 crore in FY22, with the industry debt level increasing to around Rs 50,000 crore in FY22.

While some airlines have sufficient liquidity and/or financial support from a strong parentage, which will help them sustain over the near term, there are other airlines which are already in financial stress. Furthermore, even for the former, credit metrics and liquidity profile have deteriorated. Until the cash inflows improve, the airlines will require funding support to meet their expenses.

Bollywood

Meghna Malik not keen on playing just simple, linear characters

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Meghna Malik

Actress Meghna Malik, who played the popular character of ‘Ammaji’ in the show “Na Aana Iss Des Lado”, and more recently was seen in Hindi biopic “Saina”, says that she wants to do more complex characters.

Ask her what kind of roles she is willing to portray in future and Meghna tells IANS: “Wish I was in that position that I have all the roles coming my way, that I’ll be able to explore them. I want to make audiences laugh and cry at the same time. I am not keen on playing just simple, linear characters but more complicated roles interest me.”

The actress says you don’t always get what you want: “That’s how it has been and that’s how you make your peace with that. You make your peace with rejections as well as achievements both.”

Meghna finds her character of Usha Rani, Saina Nehwal’s mother in “Saina” very close to her heart.

Parineeti Chopra had played the lead role of the ace badminton player in the film, which released earlier this year.

She says: “Saina comes from Haryana and I also belong to the same place so they connect between us. Moreover, capturing the spirit of an untiring mother was really captivating.”

Meghna will be seen in another biopic based on an eminent poet from Haryana, “Dada Lakhmi Chand”, directed by Yashpal Sharma.

“Like ‘Saina’, it is also a very interesting subject though it does not fall into that commercial-commercial form. But, I enjoyed doing it a lot,” she says.

“Saina” will have its world television premiere on Zee Cinema on July 25.

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Aparshakti Khurana to once again host Indian Sports Honours

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Aparshakti Khurana

Mumbai: Actor Aparshakti Khurana seen at Juhu, in Mumbai on Jan 7, 2020. (Photo: IANS)

Actor Aparshakti Khurana will once again be seen hosting the Indian Sports Honours. This is the second time the actor will be hosting this awards show.

Earlier, he had hosted the 2019 edition.

Talking of the same, Aparshakti said in a statement: “It is an honour to be hosting such a prestigious awards show. I have always been into sports right from my childhood. Hosting the Indian Sports Honours for the second time gives me a great sense of joy and I get to meet and talk to favourite sportspersons.”

The event will be conducted virtually this year in the wake of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

On the work front, Aparshakti will be next seen in “Helmet”, “Stardust” and an as-yet-untitled film, which will be Bhushan Kumar’s next.

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Mansi Srivastava to join the cast of ‘Kundali Bhagya’

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Mansi-Srivastava

Actress Mansi Srivastava will join the cast of the show “Kundali Bhagya”. She will be seen playing the character of Sonakshi.

Ecstatic about joining “Kundali Bhagya”, Mansi says: “Sonakshi and Karan are college friends and share a great bond. She will also become extremely close to Preeta too. In fact, the positive shade of this character along with the numerous other shades that she will bring to the role is what really got me intrigued to portray this character. Also, I must say that this is my first show with Balaji, and I couldn’t have gotten a better role or a better show to start off with.”

The actress is all in praise of the team, especially co-stars Dheeraj Dhoopar and Shraddha Arya and can’t wait to begin shooting.

“I was extremely excited to even begin shooting on the show because I was reuniting with Dheeraj after our last show together in 2016. So, I am happy to shoot with him again. I met him and Shraddha during a photoshoot and was very warmly received by both of them. In fact, I feel the entire team is very sweet, I have also had the pleasure of meeting a few of them during my look tests and I am eager to begin shooting with all of them. I also hope the audience loves this new role of mine,” she says.

“Kundali Bhagya” airs on Zee TV

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