Privatisation of airports put on hold till elections


The Union government has put on hold the handing over of the six non-metro airports in the country to the private player that has emerged as the highest bidder for the airports currently managed by the Airports Authoriy of India (AAI) in the auction.

Approval of the Union Cabinet is needed for the AAI to handover the Letter of Award (LOA) to Adani Enterprises Ltd (AEL) of the global integrated infrastructure player Adani Group.

AEL, the highest bidder, will manage, operate as well as develop the infrastructure facilities of Thiruvananthapuram, Mangaluru, Ahmedabad, Jaipur, Lucknow and Guwahati airports for 50 years.

The LOA to the selected concessionaire could not be issued by the AAI as announced on February 28, as the subject of airport privatisation could not be taken up in the Union Cabinet. The deferring is also seen as a political move by the NDA to avoid further controversy in the wake of AEL bagging all the six airports. The Opposition Congress, the CPI(M) and the Airports Authority Employees Union are up in arms against the privatisation. Cases, including those filed by the Kerala government, against handing over the airport are in the Kerala High Court.

The Model Code of Conduct (MCC) that has come into force from Sunday for the elections to the Lok Sabha has turned as a cropper now for handing over of the six airports to the AEL. The MCC bars the government from taking any decisions that influence the voters and the Election Commission’s nod is mandatory for decisions.

For a sensitive issue like privatisation of airports and infrastructure facilities that is already controversial, the Union government is unlikely to approach the Election Commission for ratification.

Official sources said a decision on the privatisation of the six airports was unlikely before the Lok Sabha election results and that the mantle to take a call will fall on the next government that would assume power at the Centre. The validity of the tenders is till July this year.

The AAI and Adani Group is tight-lipped over the LOA. The Airports Authority Employees Union branch secretary, S. Ajith Kumar, said they would continue with the stir against the privatisation.

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Printable version | Jan 23, 2020 7:23:09 AM |

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