Kerala plans low-cost airline, Islamic banking

Kerala plans low-cost airline, Islamic banking

Kerala has not given up on a proposal to start an airline of its own, Chief Minister Oomen Chandy said.



New Delhi: Kerala has not given up on a proposal to start an airline of its own, particularly to provide low-cost options to its vast diaspora in the Gulf, and will soon pursue this with the central government, Chief Minister Oomen Chandy has said. "We are at the moment concentrating on our fourth international airport at Kannur. Once that is done, we will pursue the airline option. We have not given up on the idea of a low-cost carrier," Chandy said at an interaction with IANS journalists during a visit to the agency's head office here Monday evening.

"We have also brought down the minimum level of investment in the Kannur airport project to Rs.50,000 from Rs.200,100 for individual investors," Chandy, who assumed office for the second time on May 18 said, adding this was a major request among many investors. The project, under public-private partnership, is being set up by a consortium in which 26 percent of the equity is with the government, 23 percent with public sector units, two percent with other institutions and the remaining 49 percent with private players.

The airport is expected to cater to an annual traffic of more than one million international passengers and 300,000 domestic passengers as per 2009-2010 estimates and will also serve as an air cargo hub for perishables like flowers, vegetables, fruit and seafood.

Home to idyllic beaches, Kannur in the northern part of Kerala is among 10 best cities in India to live in, as per research firm Indicus Analytics, and 13 percent of its population is employed overseas. The project is coming up on a 2,000-acre area and expected to start operations in 2013.

Kerala currently has international airports at Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi and Kozhikode. Kerala has around four million of its diaspora living outside and the bulk of them reside in the Gulf countries.

Speaking about the airline project, Chandy said the previous United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government had posed three conditions for overseas operations -- a fleet of five planes, five years of domestic operations and no operations to the Gulf. "We said Air India Express with just two planes was allowed. Within three months, it got permission to fly to the Gulf. They said it is an Air India subsidiary. We said, okay we accept, but you also have to accept this -- this is a state government airline," Chandy said.

During the free-wheeling interaction, Chandy also said his government will soon apply its mind on the issue of promoting the concept of Islamic banking in the state, which believes in sharing profits and bans levy of interest, to fund infrastructure.

In February this year, the Kerala High Court had given a green signal to Al Baraka, a company registered under the tenets of Sharia with investment from a state-run firm, to operate a financial institution based on the principles of Islamic banking. The state hoped to rope in funds from institutions that follow the Sharia law.

"That proposal was there during the previous government. We have not decided on further things. But we have also not given up. Within this short period of our regime, we had not applied our minds. But we will pursue it," Chandy said.

Muslims constitute 24-25 percent of Kerala's 32 million population.

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