Indians in Male and elsewhere in Maldives heaved a sigh of relief as the stand-off between Male airport operator GMR, and the Maldives government fizzled out and Maldives took over the running of the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport from the midnight of December 7.
“There are no problems in the [running of the] airport,” said GMR spokesperson Arun Bhagat. GMR personnel are still handling most operations, though Finance Minister Abdullah Jihad had handed over to CEO and MD of Maldives Airports Company Mohamed Ibrahim a document authorising him to operate the airport.
No GMR representative was present at the handing over ceremony. Asked about this, Attorney General Aishath Azima Shakoor said it was not necessary for GMR to hand over the airport. With the notice period ending at 23:59 on December 7, the government became the owner of the airport from midnight, she said.
Some crew of a few international airlines to whom The Hindu spoke to were not even aware of the stand-off.
There are about 23,000 Indians in Maldives, and a majority of them are labourers. There are also a significant number of teachers, paramedics, and other professionals, besides some businessmen who have made Maldives their home for decades. “I am glad it ended this way,” said an Indian businessman, who runs a restaurant chain and had made Male his home for over two decades. “There are many ways to sort out mutual issues. Confrontation has no place.” A medical professional from India recalled that a keralite was allegedly assaulted in Male, and in return, all Maldivians arriving in the Thiruvananthapuram airport became targets of Hindu right wing extremists. Till recently, only Thiruvananthapuram offered direct flights to Male from South India. This led to Indians being targeted in Male and elsewhere. “We all live well and in peace here. But we have to also remember that there is give-and-take in any relationship.”
Most Indians wondered why the GMR issue simmered for so long, and felt that there should have been better communication between the parties to the conflict. They also agreed with the Maldivian government’s assertion that no other businesses were affected during the stand-off with the airport operator.
A drive around the city indicates that the first day of the new work-week began as normal for most Maldivians. Work on two sites being developed by Tata Housing, whose first foray in the international market is in Maldives, is progressing at hectic pace. The project, being jointly developed with SG18 Developers Pvt. Ltd., and named Apex Realty, came about to bridge the acute housing shortage in Male.
In 2011, the government of Maldives launched a $500-million project to develop 10,000 housing units for Maldivians.
Apex Realty has signed an agreement with the government for developing residential apartments through a Public-Private Partnership model, according to information on the Tata Housing website.