A bill to set up the first-ever national aviation university in the country named after Rajiv Gandhi to train pilots, cabin crew and aircraft engineers was passed in the Lok Sabha on Friday.
The proposed university would come up at Sonia Gandhi's constituency of Rae Bareli in Uttar Pradesh.
Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh moved the Rajiv Gandhi National Aviation University Bill, 2013 which provides for creation of this central university on a 26 acre plot at the Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Udaan Academy at Fursatganj in Rae Bareli. It was passed after a short discussion.
Speaking before the Bill was put to vote, Singh allayed fears of members on privatisation of airports. "I want to say that all these airports in the country will continue to be owned by the Airports Authority of India," he said, adding that any construction or development of the existing airports will be done on Public-Private Partnership (PPP) basis.
He also said his ministry is working on opening more domestic airports in the country and may expand the airports of the Air Force for this purpose in some districts.
Initiating the debate on the bill, Ananth Kumar (BJP) questioned the logic behind setting up the proposed university in Rae Bareli. "Rae Bareli is an aviation desert. It should be set up in Bangalore, where all the required infrastructure is present," he said.
Kumar also questioned why the proposed institution is being named after late Rajiv Gandhi. He said while he had nothing against the former Prime Minister, the university could have been named in the memory of M Vishveshwariah who was behind the creation of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited.
He accused Congress members of indulging in sycophancy by naming various schemes after Rajiv Gandhi and wondered why the Civil Aviation Minister, who heads RLD, had to be part of that.
The university, an autonomous body under administrative control of the Civil Aviation Ministry, would have an estimated funding of Rs 202 crore during the 12th Plan period, of which Rs 80 crore has already been sanctioned by the Centre.
The need for the university was felt due to the "marked absence of credible institutions imparting specialised technical and managerial training in air transportation, safety, security and regulatory areas," the bill's Statement of Objects and Reasons said.
"The opportunity cost of