CVC refuses to clear AAI chief's extension

The government move to continue with V P Agarwal as Chairman of Airports Authority of India (AAI) came a cropper after the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) refused clearance for his extension due to allegations of irregularities in a couple of airport projects.

Alok Sinha, Joint Secretary in Ministry of Civil Aviation, has now been asked to look after the responsibilities of AAI Chairman, which Agarwal handled for the past five years, till a new chief is found, officials said.

Agarwal, whose term ended on December 31, was given an extension by the Civil Aviation Ministry subject to clearance from the CVC, in an indication that the government wanted him at the helm at a time it was going ahead with privatisation of airports. However, the CVC decision has put a spanner on its plans.

Officials said the extension was given expecting that the CVC would clear it. The appointment of a new chairman will take some time and till then Sinha will carry out the responsibilities of AAI Chairman.

Sources said the CVC had imposed a major penalty on him for alleged irregularities in projects related two airports. Agarwal, whose rose from the AAI ranks to become the chairman, could not be reached for his comments. He has 18 months of service left.

He was also under the scanner for allegations of irregularities in the awarding contracts running into crores for construction of a new terminal at Lucknow's Amausi airport and another contract for upgrade of Varanasi airport. He was accused of clearing files for these projects when he was AAI Member Planning without taking the mandatory nod from the higher-ups.

Agarwal's tenure as chairman saw the modernisation of a large number of major airports as also that of several non-metro ones, besides the joint development of India's satellite-based navigation system GAGAN, which would be operationalised by June-July. An alumni of IIT-Roorkee, Agrawal had assumed office of chairman on January 1, 2009.

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