Ker CM raises issue of airport's privatisation to PM

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Chief Minister of Kerala Pinarayi Vijayan during a meeting, New Delhi, Saturday, June 15, 2019. (PTI Photo)

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi at his residence here on Saturday and expressed the state's reservation on the privatisation of Thiruvananthapuram international airport.

This is for the first time that the Left leader was meeting Modi after he assumed office for the second time following the BJP-led NDA's victory in the Lok Sabha polls.

Vijayan is here to attend the Niti Aayog meeting.

During the brief meet, attended by state PWD minister G Sudhakaran and Chief Secretary Tom Jose, Vijayan submitted a memorandum citing various demands including further aid for rebuilding the flood-hit state.

Official sources said the chief minister requested the Centre to retain the airport in the public sector and not to hand over its management to any private company.

Kerala's concern over its reported exclusion from the priority list of the national highway development and the need to get more central assistance for various projects also figured in the discussion, which lasted for around 15 minutes, they added.

The Adani group had, in February, won the bid to operate five out of six airports, including the one at Thiruvananthapuram, proposed for privatisation by the central government.

The state government had earlier appealed to the Centre to reconsider its decision to lease out Thiruvananthapuram aerodrome for operation, management and development under the public-private partnership (PPP).

"Without the co-operation of the state government, no private company can develop the airport properly," Vijayan told the state Assembly earlier this week.

In a letter to the prime minister in March, Vijayan had demanded that the airport's operation be handed over to the Thiruvananthapuram International Airport Ltd (TIAL) floated by the government-run Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation (KSIDC).

The airport was established in 1932 on 258.06 acres of land owned by the princely state of Travancore, of which the state is the successor.

The 258.06 acres of land had been entered into the revenue records as government land.

The Airports Authority of India has admitted that only 0.05756 hectares out of the total extent of 636.57 acres of land are under its ownership.

The state government claims it has the expertise in airport management and also creditworthiness, more than that of the private entity, which does not possess previous experience in such operations.

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