AAI defers deadline for shortlisting of bidders by two months

With the privatisation of Airports Authority of India (AAI)–owned airports in Chennai, Kolkata, Ahmedabad, Guwahati and Jaipur facing strong opposition from within, the authorities have decided to defer the deadline for short-listing of bidders by around two months.

However, the process for the Lucknow airport is under way after its earlier deferment. The date for announcement of the shortlisted bidders for the Lucknow airport, deferred from November 4 to December 15, has now been advanced to November 27.

Sources in the AAI said the dates for short-listing of bidders for the five airports — Chennai, Kolkata, Guwahati, Ahmedabad and Jaipur — has been postponed and would be announced later. The dates for the Chennai airport has been deferred from November 4 to December 23, for Kolkata from November 25 to January 20, for Jaipur from November 11 to December 26, Ahmedabad from November 5 to January 6 and Guwahati from November 20 to January 20.

The authorities have refused to give any reason for this exercise but it is being said that pressure from within the AAI against privatisation of these major airports was one of the reasons for deferring this exercise. The government was of the view that the process for privatisation of these airports should be completed ahead of the 2014 general elections.

The move has come under severe criticism from various sections including AAI employees, trade unions and some political parties. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture last week adopted a report opposing the move and advocating long-term management contracts.

Several private and foreign infrastructure firms such as the IL&FS Transportation Networks, Essar Projects India, Cochin International Ltd, Essel Infraprojects Ltd., GVK, Fraport Saudi Arabia, GMR Airports Ltd., Sahara Group, and Turkish firm Celebi Habacilik Holding AS have evinced interest in these airport projects. Representatives of some of their companies had visited the Chennai airport for inspection last month.

The private parties, which are in the race to participate in the operation, management and transfer of these airports and wanted to submit the Request for Qualification (RFQ), have raised several issues including those relating to the workforce and returns to be given to AAI.

In early September, the AAI had launched the process of allowing private parties to pick up 100-per-cent equity stake in operation and management of six airports through the public-private partnership (PPP) mode.