Parliamentary panel flays closing of old Hyderabad, Bengaluru airports

Parliamentary panel flays closing of old Hyderabad, Bengaluru airports

The Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture "is of the opinion that by closing these airports, Government has indirectly promoted the business interest of the private airport operators."The old airports at Bengaluru and Hyderabad were closed down in 2008 after the new airports operated by private-led consortia became functional.

In a report tabled in Parliament today, the Committee, headed by CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury, said the government had "opened a Pandora's Box and all concessionaires in future will insist on closing the government-owned old airports to thwart competition to them."

Maintaining that there was still "ample time to revisit the issue", it asked the government to make use of the old airports which have been "built by tax payers' money".
Observing that it considered government's "reluctance in this issue as very unfortunate", the panel said the Civil Aviation Ministry's contention that flight operations out of the closed airports in the two cities would jeopardise flight safety was "fallacious and erroneous".

The two old airports were still handling VIP flights, charter and helicopter operations and "strangely, these operations are hampering neither the safety of aircraft nor the operations of the Air Traffic Control".

The committee reiterated its earlier recommendation that "instead of providing such unconvincing excuses", the government should operationalise the old airports at Hyderabad and Bengaluru "without any delay".On the issue of User Development Fee (UDF) being levied on passengers by private airport operators, it said the government should have advised these operators "to venture into the capital market to raise the required funds rather than imposing the UDF on the public".

At a time when airfares are "soaring", the common passengers should not be burdened with UDF, it said.Noting that the state-owned Airports Authority of India was not allowed to charge UDF by the Ministry, the panel felt that permitting private operators to do so was "an example of double standard adopted by the government, discriminating against its own PSU and favouring the private airports". It also wanted the Ministry to provide information on "government's share in the UDF collected so far from these (private) airports"

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