India to be world No 2 aviation market in 10 years: Ajit Singh

Striking an optimistic note amid dwindling figures for India's air passenger traffic, civil aviation minister Ajit Singh said on Sunday that the country would become the second-largest air traffic market in the world within a decade, thanks to his government's open air policy.

Speaking at the official inauguration of the new airport at Nagpur in Maharashtra, named the Dr B R Ambedkar International Airport, he said domestic carriers flew close to 162 million passengers in 2011-12, up from 143 million in 2010-11.

Singh called for more investment in aviation infrastructure, especially from the private sector, to help reach the government's ambition of making India an aviation hub.

He suggested that the government may hand over the operation and management of the Kolkata and Chennai airports to private companies under the public-private partnership (PPP) model.

Singh unveiled a statue of Dr B R Ambedkar, a key architect of the Indian Constitution idolised by the Dalit community to which he belonged, at the airport, with Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithiviraj Chavan and a host of state ministers attending the function.

Quoting International Air Transport Association (IATA) data, Singh said the country will be the second-largest air passenger traffic market in the world within a decade; and in the same time, the number of international air passengers entering the country will be 84 million while the volume of domestic passengers will jump to 336 million.

About launching more international flights from Nagpur, Singh said the city will soon be linked with more cities besides Sharjah.

Chief minister Chavan said his government is committed to develop the multi-modal international cargo and passenger hub in city, and is looking for a private partner.