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Parl panel opposes plan to privatise six airports



‘We had adopted a report on Thursday on privatisation of airports in India. I cannot disclose all details till it is submitted before the chairman of Rajya Sabha possibly in a week’s time. But, I can tell you that we are totally against privatisation allowing transfer of assets to private entities,’ chairman of the standing committee Sitaram Yechury said here on Friday.

‘Instead, Airports Authority of India (AAI) should be allowed to offer long-term management contracts,’ he said. The civil aviation ministry was planning to roll out a second wave of privatisation for six airports –Chennai, Kolkata, Ahmedabad, Lucknow, Jaipur and Guwahati. Yechury expressed hope that the process initiated by the Centre would be rolled back after submission of the report.

The panel had, earlier in August, maintained that privatisation of airports was a ‘total negation’ of the best global practices and said globally most successful examples of airport management are known to have retained public control, even while outsourcing some particular activities to private people.

The parliamentary panel has members from all major political parties and has maintained throughout that many international airports had successfully brought in private parties to invest in areas such as cargo handling, parking bays, servicing and overhauling facilities and maintenance of terminal buildings.

‘However, in India we are handing over the entire airport to the private parties, which is in total negation of the best practices available in the world,’ the panel had said.
The aviation ministry, however, has taken a position which is different from the line which the parliamentary panel has been pursuing. Last month, the AAI invited bids from eligible companies for operation, management and transfer of six airports - Chennai, Kolkata, Guwahati, Ahmedabad Jaipur and Lucknow.

Incidentally, the government has already spent substantial amount on creation of new terminals and other airport infrastructure at these six airports, which it plans to now privatise. In fact, the AAI had spent Rs. 5,800 crore on these airports during last few years and it expects the private parties to spend an additional Rs. 4,250 crore. 

‘If the government was planning to privatise these airports why did the AAI invest so much money on them? It could have very well asked the private parties to spend on building 
new terminals. AAI could have preserved its limited resources for the development of other airports,’ said an industry source.
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