The CPM-led government in Kerala is up in arms against Centre’s decision to hand over the Thiruvananthapuram international airport to a private party.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan even warned that it will not be a smooth affair for the private player to operate the Thiruvananthapuram airport.
However, the Kerala Government’s stand has not gone down well among the airport users as they feel that the privatisation of the airport would eventually result in enhancing the airport’s infrastructure. They also cited the Mumbai, Delhi and Hyderabad airports as well as the Nedumbaserry airport in Kochi, that are on public-private-partnership model, as examples.
The Adani group has quoted the highest rate in the bidding for the Thiruvananthapuram and four other airports. The rate quoted for Thiruvananthapuram was Rs. 168 per passenger. The average annual passenger traffic at Thiruvananthapuram airport is nearly 45 lakh.
“The Thiruvananthapuram airport has been already losing out passenger traffic and the amenities are not on par with many other airports, even the Kochi airport. Hence there is no point in opposing handing over of the operations and development of the airport to a private party,” said Thiruvananthapuram Airport Users’ Consultative Committee chairman Raghuchandran Nair.
Nair, who is also president of Trivandrum Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said that when the chief minister was rolling out the red carpet to corporates all over the world, he should be extending the same stand towards private party coming up to operate the airport also. “We have already conveyed our stand to the Kerala Government officials. Hope they would convey it to the government,” he said.
The major contention of the Kerala Government and the Airport Authority of India employees opposing the privatisation are fear of job loss and strategic concerns.
However, a former senior official with AAI said that there were no grounds for these concerns. Only the airport’s management, operation and development are being handed over to the private player and all key strategic functions like air traffic control would remain with the AAI only. Similarly, the employees might be offered options of retention or even voluntary retirement scheme with golden shake hand offers as was done at Mumbai, Delhi and Hyderabad.
The Kerala Government’s contention that the land for the airport was acquired by the state government and handed over free of cost to the AAI also do not have any valid justification as that is the general norm. Moreover, the AAI is not handing over the ownership of the airport or land to the private party, but only leasing the operation, management and development, said the former official.