Central University for Indian Civil Aviation

The Rajiv Gandhi National Aviation University Bill, 2013, was passed by the Parliament and received the Presidential assent on September 18, 2013

Issue: 6 / 2015By B.K. PandeyIllustration(s): By Anoop Kamath

If there is one segment of the civil aviation industry in India that has suffered from apathy and perpetual neglect, it is that of human resource development required for the various disciplines that constitute the industry. According to assessments by the Centre for Asia-Pacific Aviation, the Indian civil aviation industry is woefully short of trained manpower and up to the year 2020, it will need around three-and-a-half-lakh personnel professionally trained in different disciplines. However, despite this infirmity, the Indian civil aviation industry has registered an impressive rate of growth over the last decade and has emerged as the ninth largest civil aviation market in the world. It also has aspirations to reach the third slot from top by 2020.

With aim of addressing this weakness in the area of human resource, for a couple of decades, the Ministry of Civil Aviation had been toying with the idea of setting up an umbrella organisation by way of a Central University to ensure the development of world-class human resource in all disciplines across the board related to aviation. In the year 2006, a committee headed by M.K. Kaw had recommended setting up of a National Aviation University (NAU) in India.

The NAU was envisioned not only to bring under its control all flying training schools, both fixed- and rotary-wing, but also all other institutes such as those of aviation engineering and management training spread across the country. The mandate for the NAU was stated as “The aim of the National Aviation University would be to facilitate and promote aviation studies, teaching, training and research with focus on emerging areas of studies such as aviation management, aviation regulations and policy, aviation history, aviation science and engineering, aviation law, aviation safety and security, aviation medicine, search and rescue, transportation of dangerous goods, environmental studies and other related fields. It will also aim to achieve excellence in these and connected fields in emerging areas and such areas as may emerge in future. The University will be a knowledge partner to safety and security regulators by providing the required academic inputs to help them execute their enforcement responsibility better.”

Different locations such as Delhi, Bengaluru and Hyderabad were considered and evaluated for establishing the NAU. However, for some reasons, the issue receded into the background and remained on the back-burner for several years. It is understood that the most vexing problem was the non-availability of around 20 hectares of land, an impediment that seemingly remained insurmountable.

It was on account of an initiative by Rahul Gandhi, Vice President of the Congress Party, that the issue of finding a venue was settled. In a meeting with the then Minister of State for Civil Aviation K.C. Venugopal in March 2013, it was decided that the NAU would be established in the campus of the Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Udaan Academy (IGRUA) at Furstganj near Rae Bareilly, on a 10-hectare plot. Based on a detailed project report submitted by the Ministry of Civil Aviation, the Planning Commission granted “in principle approval” for setting up of the NAU. The proposal was then moved for approval by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs. The Twelfth Five Year Plan document had also made a similar recommendation for the development of qualified and trained manpower for aviation sector in India.

The Union Cabinet, at a meeting chaired by the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, approved the establishment of this university in the name of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi as a Central University. The proposed institution thus came to be known as the Rajiv Gandhi National Aviation University (RGNAV). The Rajiv Gandhi National Aviation University Bill, 2013, was passed by the Parliament and received the Presidential assent on September 18, 2013. The Act that provides for the establishment of the Central University also mandates that the institution shall be under the administrative control of the Ministry of Civil Aviation.

After a break of nearly two years, the RGNAU was in the news again when P. Ashok Gajapati Raju, the Minister of Civil Aviation visited IGRUA on July 9, 2015, and reviewed the progress of the project launched for the creation of infrastructure for the new institution. While speaking to the media, he stated that the RGNAU under construction at IGRUA would begin to function in the near future. However, the Minister did not make any commitment in respect of time frame.

However, on November 26, 2015, the website of the Ministry of Civil Aviation carried an advertisement inviting applications for the post of Vice Chancellor of RGNAU. This being the last item on the list of prerequisites for the establishment of the university, it is clear that finally the institution is on the verge of becoming a reality to fulfil the long-standing need of the Indian civil aviation industry.