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6 More Airports Including Varanasi to Be Privatised Soon: Report

Six airports that have been lined up for privatisation in this phase are Bhubaneswar, Varanasi, Indore, Trichy, Amritsar and Raipur.
Varanasi airport privatised

Lal Bahadur Shastri Airport, Varanasi District. | Image Courtesy: Wikipedia

The Bharatiya Janata Party-led Centre, which kickstarted a privatisation drive, is all set to hand over six more airports to the private players. Six airports that have been lined up for privatisation in this phase are Bhubaneswar, Varanasi, Indore, Trichy, Amritsar and Raipur, says a report.

According to the report in the National Herald, all these airports are likely to be awarded to the Adani Group. Though the Ministry of Finance had recommended that any company or corporate house should not be awarded more than two airports, the government plans to lift the cap to pave way for Adani to bag all the airports after the “bidding”, says the report.

The draft note has already been circulated to the concerned ministries in this regard and the Cabinet is likely to approve the decision in the first week of December. Airport Authority of India (AAI) has approved this proposal.

AAI, which works under the Ministry of Civil Aviation, owns and manages 129 airports across the country, out of which 94 were running in losses in the financial year 2017-18.

In July this year, shortly after the Modi-led BJP regime retained power for the consecutive second term at the Centre, the government revealed its plan to privatise 20-25 airports across the country. The second phase of privatisation has taken place after the privatisation of six airports in February this year—when the Adani Group had placed the highest bids to operate, manage and develop, through the public-private partnership (PPP) model, six airports in Lucknow, Ahmedabad, Jaipur, Mangaluru, Thiruvananthapuram, and Guwahati. Though the Adani group was awarded all these six airports, Centre is yet to finalise the decision regarding the Thiruvananthapuram airport.

Read More: Centre to Privatise 20-25 More Airports

Kerala government and civil society members from across the state have been registering their opposition to the proposal of privatisation of the Thiruvananthapuram airport. Soon after the principle approval from the Centre, the state government had approached the high court challenging the AAI’s “arbitrary and illegal attempt to opt for a private entity for the management of the airport”. On March 5, in a writ petition, the state government had stated that the AAI’s move to hand over the airport to Adani Group was in violation of the provisions of the AAI Act as well as the property rights of the state government regarding the airport land.

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan met Prime Minister Modi in June and raised the demand of exempting Thiruvananthapuram airport from privatisation. The CM had reiterated that the state government is keen to operate the airport.

The employees and unions of AAI under a joint forum also held a protest on September 2 as a mark of their dissent following the privatisation of the profit-making airports.

“We have seen how the privatisation has affected the Delhi and Mumbai Airports. Instead of making things better for the country and people at large—as far as facilitation, providing additional employment to society, participation in the development of aviation infrastructure in the country, etc. are concerned—the privatisation has led to monopolistic operation, exploitation of employees and additional burden on the general public,” said Balraj Singh Ahlawat, the general secretary of Airport Authority Employees Union, and convenor of the joint forum, while talking to NewsClick a few days ago.

Read More: How Modi Bypassed Norms to Try and Enable Adani’s Entry into Airport Business

On the other hand, AAI is planning to monetise 759 acres of land near eight major airports so that private companies are able to establish warehouses, hotels or restaurants, and the money generated is utilised to develop airport infrastructure, a senior official said.

“The AAI has identified the following land parcels of airports for city side development: 145 acres near Kolkata airport, 45 acres near Amritsar airport, Bhubaneswar airport, 35 acres near Jaipur airport, 60 acres near Varanasi airport, 217 acres near Lucknow airport, 80 acres near Raipur airport and 117 acres near Tirpuati airport,” a senior AAI official told PTI.

“All the above land parcels are located at respective airport sites only… The non-traffic revenue thus generated (from land monetisation) shall be utilised for the airport infrastructure development in unconnected and under-served areas,” explained the official.

“The (aforementioned) land is likely to be leased to any company or organisation for a period of 25-30 years for a fixed annual rental income,” added the official.

The revenue generated from such land monetisation is classified as non-aeronautical revenues or non-traffic revenues. The AAI is in the process of monetisation of its city side land as per the AAI Act for “planning, development, construction and maintenance of institutions/training centres, workshops, hotels, restaurants and rest-rooms, warehouses, cargo complex catering to the needs of passengers and air traffic services”, noted the official.

The study of demand assessment and financial viability of some of the aforementioned land parcels is complete and the tenders for each one of them would be issued soon, the official said.

On June 27 this year, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri had talked about this plan to monetise land of the AAI in Lok Sabha. In a reply to a question, he had said in his written answer, “In order to enhance the non-aeronautical revenue potential of its land assets and to further improve passenger facilities and convenience at its airports, AAI is in the process of monetisation of its city side land by developing training centres, workshops, hotels, restaurants and restrooms, warehouses, cargo complex to the extent permitted under the provisions of AAI Act.”

Read More: AAI Employees Protest Against Handing Over of 6 Airports to Adani Group

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