Puri questions Kerala govt’s stance on airport privatisation, asks why they bid for it earlier
A day after the Kerala government announced it would explore legal options against the Union Cabinet’s decision to lease the Thiruvananthapuram airport, along with two others, to Adani Enterprises Limited, civil aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri on Friday retorted by asking why the state government chose to participate in the bidding process.
“If the Kerala govt is against privatization, then why did it participate in the bidding process? State govt was given a fair chance and the Right of First Refusal (RoFR) if their bid was within 10% below the range of the highest bid. However, they bid 19.64% below,” Puri tweeted on Friday.
“Then they approached Hon’ble Kerala High Court which dismissed the petition in Dec 2019. Petitioners then filed a SLP in Hon’ble SC. Apex Court remitted the matter back to Hon’ble Kerala High Court. There is no stay in the case either by Hon’ble SC or Hon’ble Kerala High Court,” he added.
The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved proposal for leasing out three airports - Jaipur, Guwahati and Thiruvananthapuram - of the Airports Authority of India through the Public Private Partnership model.
On Thursday, the Kerala government, controlled by the Communist Party of India (Marxist), or CPI (M), said it would explore legal options against the Union Cabinet’s decision. After an all-party meeting, chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the state assembly will also pass a resolution opposing the move. The chief minister had also written a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi deploring the move on Wednesday, announced soon after a Union cabinet meeting in New Delhi.
Kerala is the pioneer as far as airports under Public Private Partnership are concerned, Puri said.
“First PPP airport in India came up in Kochi in Kerala. It is a successfully run airport with a capacity of 13 Million Passengers Per Annum and was handling 9.62 MPPA in 2019-20 before Covid-19. Another very successful example of PPP mode is Kannur, also situated in Kerala. In fact, it was during the UDF regime in Kerala that the foundation for Kochi airport was laid in 1994 & the airport was inaugurated in 1999 during the LDF regime. Now, the Kerala Government, running two very successful airports in PPP mode, is opposing the handing over of Thiruvananthapuram airport under PPP mode. It has come to my knowledge that an all-party meeting in Kerala has opposed the PPP model at Thiruvananthapuram airport,” he said.
Puri said that the Union Cabinet gave its nod for awarding the airport to the private party subject to the outcome of the writ petition and in accordance with provisions of undertaking given by the Concessionaire.
“If the petitioners succeed and the outcome of litigation leads to annulment/cancellation of the bidding process then the Concessionaire will hand over the possession of airport to AAI. They will be entitled to refund of the amount paid to AAI and additional investments made in the assets,” Puri said.
“The Concessionaire will also not demand any damages from AAI. Here it should be borne in mind that these airports will come back to AAI after the lease period of 50 years. Further, sovereign functions like Customs, Security, Immigration, Plant & Animal Quarantine, Health Services, Communication & Navigation Surveillance / Air Traffic Management services will continue to be provided by Government agencies,” he added.
The Centre’s move also got support from Congress MP Shashi Tharoor who represents the Thiruvananthapuram Lok Sabha constituency.
“My position on the airport has been consistent since before the elections. I am not a politician who says one thing to the voters and something else afterward for political convenience. Had my colleagues consulted me before taking a negative stand, I would have explained my views to them,” he had tweeted on Thursday.