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Opposition parties criticise privatisation of airports

Opposition parties criticise privatisation of airports
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New Delhi: Some opposition members in Rajya Sabha on Tuesday accused the government of privatising airports in the name of development and also centralising powers in its hands.

Participating in the discussion on 'The Aircraft (Amendment) Bill, 2020' that seeks to improve India's aviation safety ratings and provide statutory status to regulatory institutions, including the DGCA, members of the Congress and Left, besides some other parties alleged monopolisation of airports in the hands of one entity.

However, the BJP claimed the government's objective is to expand the aviation sector and create the infrastructure to make air travel safer and accessible for all.

Congress member K C Venugopal demanded a probe into the privatisation of six airports alleging violation of rules and corruption, a charge denied by BJP member GVL Narasimha Rao who said there is complete transparency under the Modi dispensation.

Initiating the debate, Venugopal alleged that the government was promoting crony capitalism by privatising airports in the name of developing them. He said the Adani group has won bids to operate and develop six airports of Ahmedabad, Lucknow, Bengaluru, Jaipur, Guwahati and Thiruvananthapuram.

"There is a move to monopolise Indian airports. In the future, all Indian airports will be owned by only one company. How can you allow this...There is a clear violation of norms in giving airports to a single private entity. This is a clear scam of public money," he alleged.

"I am asking for an inquiry into all this. This is a clear case of corruption," he said, alleging that the government ignored the advice given by its own ministries.

Countering the charge, BJP's Rao claimed there was complete transparency in developing airports and alleged that crony capitalism was promoted during the previous Congress-led UPA regime and cited 2G and coal auctions when courts had to intervene.

He said passenger traffic has more than doubled in the last five years and risen by 118 per cent, against 54 per cent rise in the previous five years.

He said the government has evolved an ambitious plan to expand the aviation sector and was investing Rs 13,000 crore to develop 12 airports. The objective of the prime minister is to make air travel safer and accessible for all sections of society, Rao said.

Praful Patel (NCP), a former civil aviation minister, stressed the need for developing more airports to decongest airports like Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai and Chennai. He said that Jewar airport was approved in 2007 and Navi Mumbai in 2005 but both are yet to be completed.

He also sought to know how appointments will be made in statutory bodies in the wake of lesser technical people available, as earlier only a specialist was appointed as DGCA.

"Airport or aviation is not only a mode of transportation but also huge economic growth," he said, adding there was a need to help the sector hit by COVID-19.

Dinesh Trivedi (TMC) lauded the Vande Bharat mission and asked the government to restructure Air India but not sell it.

"If Air India was not there, private players would not have been there. Air India is a very good airline. You can change its structure, but please don't sell it. Drop plans to sell it," he said, demanding a complete revamp of the Aircraft Act saying it has become outdated.

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