Rush the process of splitting the aviation authority: Private airlinesThe plan to break up the civil aviation body into regulator and service provider has dragged on for nine years.
The plan to break up the civil aviation body into regulator and service provider has dragged on for nine years as the government struggles to finalise a draft Civil Aviation Bill amid bureaucratic setbacks every step of the way.
The latest roadblock is a threat from an employees union of the Civil Aviation Authority that the government would face consequences if it moved to split the aviation body.
The draft legislation has already been submitted to the Legislative Committee of the cabinet seeking approval to register it in Parliament.
The proposed law envisages integrating previous acts to eliminate conflicts and contradictions at the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal, which is currently functioning as both regulator and service provider from the same office, and there is no clear demarcation between its duties and organisational structure.
It is expected to replace two existing acts, the Civil Aviation Act 1959 and the Nepal Civil Aviation Authority Act 1996.
“We will cut off the hands of the people who are planning to split the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal,” said Shravan Kumar Yadav, president of the Nepal National Employees’ Union, speaking at the 21st anniversary celebration of the Civil Aviation Authority on Tuesday amid the presence of Tourism Minister Yogesh Bhattarai, Tourism Secretary Kedar Bahadur Adhikari and the authority’s Director General Rajan Pokhrel.
Yadav said that they had collected the signatures of more than 400 employees and could 'wage a war' against the government if it did not roll back its decision to split the aviation body. The union and the employees fear that they will lose their perks and pay if the organisation is broken up.
Rameshwor Thapa, president of the Airline Operators Association of Nepal, said the agitation the trade union has planned to launch is unjustifiable because they are not going to lose anything if there is a strike in the industry. “But if we collapse, they will definitely lose their jobs,” said the chief of the apex body of private airlines in Nepal.
Due to delays in passing the legislation, several international aviation safety agencies have even slammed Nepal’s poor progress in ensuring air safety.
In December 2013, the European Commission imposed a blanket ban on all airlines from Nepal from flying into the 28-nation bloc after the September 2012 crash of Sita Air Flight 601 in the Manohara River that killed 19 people, including seven British citizens.
No Nepali airline flies to the EU, but the commission became concerned enough to prevent them from entering the continent after a spate of air crashes in Nepal. Between 2008 and 2012, there were at least two air crashes annually.
In December 2013, the European Commission put Nepal on its air safety list, banning all carriers certified in Nepal from flying into the EU because of significant safety deficiencies requiring decisive action. The commission had put forth a condition that Nepal’s civil aviation body should urgently stop its dual functioning from the same office.
“The ban has had a profound impact on Nepal’s aviation and tourism industry,” said Thapa. Travellers hesitate to visit the country which has been questioned by the commission. “As our skies are restricted for European travellers, we are not getting quality tourists,” Thapa said, adding that the insurance premiums for both aircraft and passengers had also increased significantly in the last few years due to the safety issues.
“Today, in Nepal, a tourist spends $200 to stay here for a month,” he said. The plight of Nepal Airlines, which is on the verge of bankruptcy, is also due to the European Commission's restrictions as it has been barred from spreading its wings despite having four new planes now, said Thapa. “So, the separation of the Civil Aviation Authority is urgent.”
Tourism Secretary Adhikari said that Nepal’s aviation safety has improved a lot, but there are many things to be done because improvement is a continuous process. “We faced many challenges when the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal was formed by dismantling the Department of Civil Aviation.
The Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal was established as an independent regulatory body on December 31, 1998 as a result of the Civil Aviation Act of 1996.
“Now, as per the need of the time, we have to separate the civil aviation body. Now, it has become a necessity.”
Tourism Minister Bhattarai said that they would not backtrack from their decision to split the aviation body. “Let the union agitate, but if any damage occurs, the person will have to pay compensation for it.”
“Let the industry grow. Stop the agitation because it will not benefit anyone,” said Bhattarai, requesting the agitating union to convince the ministry why the separation of the civil aviation body would not be good for the industry.