Government sticks to UPA’s plan; will privatise 4 airports despite protests

New Delhi,Shahkar Abidi(dna): Ignoring protests against rampant privatization of airports, the civil aviation ministry on Wednesday decided to go ahead with a plan formulated by the previous UPA government and called for financial transaction consultants to scout for private parties to invest in Kolkata, Chennai, Jaipur and Ahmedabad airports.

In September 2012, the UPA government had decided to allow private parties to pick up stakes in the operation and management of six airports through the public-private partnership (PPP) model. Certain sections of airport staff, trade unions and even a few airlines have been dead against privatization through PPP ever since. Airports Authority of India (AAI) staffers in Mumbai and other parts of the country form a chunk of this group.

Last month, the AAI top rung had invited Request For Qualification (RFQ) from domestic and overseas private firms to hand over the management, operation and development of the four airports.

The government’s decision is being severely criticised by some airlines and trade union bodies as it is likely to lead to a massive hike in airport charges, which will in turn be detrimental to passenger growth in the country. AAI staffers said that the government had already concurred over an expenditure of Rs 5,000 crore on the airports meant to be privatized.

The Centre also has plans to start around 200-odd more airports in the next two decades. However, aviation experts questioned the financial viability of this move considering the fact that existing airports are making losses, which dna had reported in its January 14 edition. Based on data available with AAI, the report revealed how most of the airports in the western Indian (except for Goa, Mumbai, and Pune) made losses in the financial year of 2013-14. These included airports at Akola, Kandla, Aurangabad, Bhavnagar, Bhopal, Bhuj, Diu, Gondia, Indore, Jabalpur, Jamnagar, Keshod, Kolhapur, Porbandar, Rajkot, Songarh, Soplapur, Surat, Vadodara, Ahmedabad, and Juhu.