The Opposition parties are engaged in a war of words with the Centre and the BJP leadership over the privatisation of airports, particularly that at Thiruvananthapuram.
They recalled a 2013 report of a Parliamentary Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture which had unanimously warned against privatisation of airports. The panel had included senior BJP leader and the present Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and was headed by CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury.
The report had advised against amending the Model Concession Agreement to assign the services on the airside and in the terminals to the private sector.
The report had said: “Thus, with the metro and other profit-making airports going to private people, AAI will be left with economically unviable ones. Earlier, Airports Authority of India was in a position to off-set the losses of non-metro airports by revenue earned from metro airports through cross-subsidy. The Committee fails to understand how the AAI will be able to carry out its mandate with the depleted resources. Other lucrative activities of AAI are being taken out and being given to a separate corporation.”
Even the Sangh Parivar trade union, the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, had opposed the privatisation move. It had participated in protests along with Opposition unions on the issue.
MB Rajesh, a former CPI(M) MP, said the BJP is now moving away from the collective opinion arrived in the Standing Committee report. “It is a very good report written after consultations with all stakeholders. What is the position of Yogi Adityanath now on airports privatisation,” Rajesh asked. He said Thiruvananthapuram is a profit making airport and the panel had criticised the “unusual haste being shown in the process of privatisation” of profit-making airports.
The Committee had not accepted the then UPA government’s argument that privatisation of Delhi and Mumbai Airports had helped the AAI garner a lot of resources which would not have been possible otherwise. “While arguing repeatedly in favour of privatisation having been beneficial to AAI, the Government conveniently tries to overlook the fact that if the AAI had been allowed to run Delhi and Mumbai airports, the magnitude of their earnings would have been much higher,” it said.
After an all-party meeting on Thursday, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi against the Cabinet’s decision to privatise the airport.