HAVING SET the ball rolling for the Delhi and Mumbai airport modernisation plan, the government is keen to get on with the modernisation of Kolkata and Chennai airports. But it is not sure whether it will take the joint-venture route -- like it did for Delhi and Mumbai.
The rethink has been caused by the heat the government faced for its joint-venture model for Delhi and Mumbai airports. Questions were raised about the way the process was handled. Also, the fact that Kolkata is in the hands of the Left, which headed the agitation against handing over of airports to private parties, may have led to caution.
Civil Aviation secretary Ajay Prasad told HT: "Any joint venture of this kind needs the complete support of state governments. They need to be fully involved in terms of committing vital infrastructure needs like water, electricity, road access and security. At this stage, it would be premature to say whether it will be a joint venture at all."
Private consortiums GMR and GVK are the dominant partners in the joint ventures for Delhi and Mumbai airports respectively and Airports Authority of India has a 26 per cent stake.
Prasad said the plan for Kolkata and Chennai airports would be prepared after a thorough dialogue with the chief ministers of West Bengal and Tamil Nadu — Buddhadeb Bhattacharya and M. Karunanidhi. He said, "A dialogue has begun but meetings are yet to take place on this matter between the ministry and the chief ministers. The state governments have to be taken into confidence. At the moment, there is no forward movement and I cannot attach a timeline to the process."
Earlier, the Prime Minister's Committee on Infrastructure had said the two airports would be developed through the public-private-partnership route on the model followed for Delhi and Mumbai airports.
It was assumed that the restructuring process of Kolkata and Chennai airports would be completed by March 31, 2008. There has been talk of building a greenfield airport in Kolkata, but Prasad said the traffic was not enough to warrant it either there or in Chennai.
The modernisation of Kolkata and Chennai airports would require about Rs 5,700 crore investment between 2008-09 and 2013-14, half of what has been envisaged for Delhi and Mumbai.