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‘Let AAI-owned Kolkata, Chennai airports be privately managed’

Government will soon invite global bids for professional management of AAI-run new Chennai and Kolkata airports through public-private-partnership, Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh said on Tuesday.

'These two airports have to be managed professionally by engaging private partners through the PPP or joint venture route. The offers in this regard will be invited through an international bid very soon,' he told reporters here.

The Kolkata and Chennai airports are owned by the Airports Authority of India (AAI), which recently modernised them and constructed plush new integrated terminals there.

The Chennai International Airport was modernised at a cost of Rs 2,100 crore while the Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport at Kolkata was refurbished for Rs 2,350 crore.

These airports are the highest revenue earners for AAI.

Referring to the proposal to create a Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) with financial and operational autonomy to replace the DGCA, Singh said a note on the issue has been sent to the Union Cabinet after receiving comments from all concerned Ministries.

The draft CAA bill is ready and would be taken up by the Cabinet 'very soon', he said, adding that the bill is likely to be tabled in Parliament in the Monsoon Session.

Speaking on other developments in the civil aviation sector, Singh said it has been decided to create Air Navigation Services (ANS) corporation by hiving it off from the AAI for providing air navigation services.

The government also proposed to create a separate Aviation Security Force to take care of airport security, presently handled by the Central Industrial Security Forces.

'A cabinet note has been prepared. The proposal has been finalised by the (Civil Aviation) Ministry and has been circulated to other Ministries for their comments,' he said. The Minister expressed satisfaction over the 'remarkable turnaround' made by the government-owned helicopter operator, Pawan Hans Helicopters Limited (PHHL), with the company recording a net profit of Rs 7.70 crore compared to a net loss of Rs 10.35 crore in the last fiscal.

Highlighting the achievements of PHHL, he said in the financial year 2012-13, the company achieved the highest-ever operating revenue of Rs 458.30 crore. The PHHL has flown around 1,000 hours more to earn this all time high revenue.

PHHL had also registered its highest-ever profit from operations of Rs 39.17 crores and bagged new orders from British Gas Limited, Power Grid Corporation and Governments of Arunachal Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Assam, Tripura and Sikkim. It also plans to set up a regional headquarter in Guwahati to monitor and handle its operations in the Northeastern region more efficiently, Singh said.

Asked about the Navi Mumbai airport, the Minister said the project was facing trouble over land acquisition.

'That is why we are operationalising the Juhu airport for small aircraft operations. If such planes are removed from the existing Mumbai airport, then it would be able to handle a substantial number of passengers and absorb the growth over the next 4-5 years,' he said.

On setting up of airports in various states including Uttar Pradesh, he said, 'Most governments are ready to give land, but acquisition is a problem.' He said talks were on with UP government to develop airports at Faizabad, Moradabad and Meerut.

Singh said the Ministry has not yet received any proposal to set up a new airline, Air Kerala, from the state government.


‘FOREIGNERS KEEN ON ENJOYING SHARE OF INDIAN AVIATION CAKE’

New Delhi: Upbeat over the Jet-Etihad deal and the proposal to launch Air Asia India, Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh on Tuesday said that foreign airlines have realised the massive growth potential of the Indian aviation sector and were evincing keen interest in it.

With the government allowing foreign airlines to invest in Indian carriers, 'it is clear that foreign airlines have realised the growth possibilities of the Indian aviation sector and are keenly interested,' he told reporters. Jet Airways has clinched a deal with Gulf carrier Etihad Airways while 'IndiGo already has 49 per cent FDI,' Singh said.

Caelum Investments, a US-based firm owned and run by former CEO of US Airways Rakesh Gangwal, owns 48 per cent of IndiGo. Other stakeholders include IndiGo's parent company InterGlobe Enterprises which owns 51.12 per cent.

'While Air India has the best deal as they have the government as their bank, only SpiceJet and GoAir remain. Only they can tell you (about their investment plans),' he said, adding that as far as Kingfisher Airlines was concerned, it was non-existent.

On Air Asia India, Singh said the airline company was yet to submit names of its Directors and CEO, which are required for security clearances by the Home Ministry as per rules. 'I don't expect any problems. We have already sought information.'

On Kingfisher Airlines, AAI chairman V P Aggarwal said that the airports body has already filed a criminal suit on bouncing of cheques worth Rs 117 crore and a civil suit for recovery of an additional Rs 300 crore.
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