Within a day of the Union Cabinet’s decision to hand over Thiruvananathapuram, Jaipur and Guwahati airports to the Adani group for operation, management and development, voices of dissent have surfaced.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan sent a protest letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday while the Leader of the CPI (M) in the Rajya Sabha, Elamaram Kareem, lodged a protest with the Prime Minister and Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri.
‘Not just 3, but 3 more’
Congress’s MP Jairam Ramesh was amused over the handing over not just three but three more to just one group.
“First, the airports in Ahmedabad, Lucknow and Mangalore were sold off. Now, it is the turn of Jaipur, Guwahati and Thiruvananthapuram. All six sold to one private company. At this rate, AAI (Airports Authority of India) could well mean ‘Adani Airports of India’!” Ramesh tweeted. Kareem, in the letter to the PM, termed the move as being against the wishes of the people of Kerala and violative of the assurance given by the Civil Aviation Ministry to the State Government.”
“You may also note that this particular company does not have any proven experience in the successful management of an international airport where the Government of Kerala is successfully running the Kannur and Kochi airport,” he said while alleging that this was not even considered by the Central Government. Similar was the content in the letter to Puri.
He recalled the assurance by the Civil Aviation Ministry to Kerala in 2003 that it will take into consideration the contributions made by the State Government to the development of Thiruvananathapuram Airport as and when an induction of a private player is being considered.
In March, in a written reply in Rajya Sabha to Kareem, Puri had said the Union Cabinet at its November 8, 2018 meeting had accorded ‘in principle’ approval for leasing out six airports of the AAI, including the Trivandrum (Thiruvananthapuram) airport for operation, management and development through Public Private Partnership (PPP) mode. The State government had requested the Centre to allow them to form a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) to take over and run the airport.
The Centre had allowed it to participate in the bidding process with the provision of Right of First Refusal (RoFR) with price range parameter of 10 per cent.
Accordingly, the State’s designated entity, Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation (KSIDC), had participated in the bidding. However, its bid was found to be below the 10 per cent price range parameter quoted by the highest bidder.
KSIDC challenged the bidding process before the High Court of Kerala. The Court, in its order of December 18, 2019, ruled in favour of the AAI. An SLP was filed before the Supreme Court challenging the High Court judgment. The apex court on February 28 remitted the matter back to the High Court. “The matter is sub judice,” Puri had said.
Now, Kareem feels any decision on a sub judice matter is invalid.