KUSHINAGAR: With India expected to cross the crucial 100-crore vaccination mark, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has linked getting the Covid jabs to overall recovery and progress. “The fast pace of India’s Covid vaccination will be a new chapter for tourism industry. Today (people from abroad) planning to come here for work or tourism know that a vast population of our country are vaccinated. This assurance is there for international arrivals,” Modi said on Wednesday while inaugurating the Kushinagar International Airport. The PM also spoke for the first time on the successful divestment of Air India — a task tried to be accomplished thrice in the last two decades. He described it as a “big step” that will steer Indian aviation to a new direction. “The regional connectivity scheme UDAN is going to complete four years. Over 900 routes have been cleared and more than 350 have started. In recent times, over 50 airports — either greenfield or hitherto unused — have been operationalised. India will have over 200 operational airports, heliports and seaports in the next three to four years,” the PM said while adding that the country will see over 1,000 more aircraft in coming years. “We are witnessing that more middle class people are travelling by air now, thanks to the UDAN (ude desh ka aam nagrik) scheme. UP alone now has 8 airports that get regular flights and this number has risen to 9 with Kushinagar. Work is on at Greater Noida’s Jewar. Ayodhya is going to get an international airport,” Modi said. The PM said defence authorities have released significant tracts of airspace under their control for use by civilian flights, cutting distance and flying time for commercial flights with shorter direct routes being available on many sectors now. “Rail, road, aviation and waterways have to complement each other.” He also spoke about eight flying training schools for pilots being allowed at five airports. Presently, a majority of budding pilots go abroad for training to fly commercial aircraft. Having world class flying schools in India will ensure this training becomes available in India to train the number of pilots the country will require given the pace of aviation growth here. “Our drone policy has ensured this technology is used in all spheres from agriculture to defence. This will change the lives of people. The Indian drone ecosystem will range from manufacturing to training manpower to use them,” Modi said. The PM recently got the aviation ministry to junk a drone policy that chained drones on a plethora of approvals and clearances. Modi got it changed it to a very user friendly set of rules under a new policy. “It is a matter of pride that at a time when we are celebrating Amrit Mahotsav (75 years of independence), the growth in aviation symbolises the rate of our progress,” he said.