Airports modernisation discussed

Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI: The much-publicised December 31 deadline to select bidders for the modernisation and restructuring of the Delhi and Mumbai airports will be missed.

The empowered Group of Ministers (eGoM), headed by Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee, to look into the process of modernisation of these two metro airports met on Wednesday and decided to refer the entire process to a committee of secretaries for final review.

Cabinet Secretary B.K. Chaturvedi will head the five-member committee of secretaries and it will submit its report and recommendations to the eGoM within 15 days, Minister of State for Civil Aviation Praful Patel told reporters here after the meeting.

The high-power committee of secretaries will take into account the views of the inter-Ministerial group and the Government Review Committee before making their recommendations to the eGoM. Besides Mr. Mukherjee, the eGoM meeting was attended by Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, Law Minister H.R. Bharadwaj, Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath and Mr. Patel. Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia was a special invitee.

The eGoM met in the backdrop of the Left parties raising critical issues before the Centre goes ahead with the plan to modernise and partially privatise the airports in Delhi and Mumbai.

Left leaders have reportedly conveyed to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that the process was being conducted in "the most opaque" manner and "certain parties are being shown special favours." The Prime Minister said he would convey their concerns to the eGoM.

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