Airports' revamp: Bids hit roadblock
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Airports' revamp: Bids hit roadblock

The financial bids on privatisation of Delhi and Mumbai will not open today following protests from employees.

india Updated: Jan 27, 2006 17:21 IST

India will not open bids for the overhaul of its ageing and overstretched airports at New Delhi and Mumbai before January 29 due to opposition from unions who fear large-scale job losses, an official said on Friday.

The Congress-led coalition government wants to use private cash to modernise and manage the two shabby international hubs that are struggling to cope with India's surging growth in air travel.

But the bidding process has been hobbled by opposition from communist allies -- who provide key support in Parliament -- and unions, who want the revamps to be carried out by the state.

"We have assured the employees that the financial bids will not be opened today and they will be intimated about any further steps that will be taken," K Ramalingam, chairman at the Airports Authority of India (AAI), told reporters.

He had earlier spoken to hundreds of angry airport workers who had blocked the gates of the civil aviation ministry -- watched by dozens of riot police -- where the financial bids were to be opened.

Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel has said he wants the bidding process to be completed by January 31.

The government had earlier sought clarification from a high-powered panel set up to evaluate the technical bids submitted by several companies.

Some bidders had withdrawn from the controversial process, saying they were unable to meet the conditions of the tender, while others tried but failed to meet tough bid criteria.

The protesting workers want the government to clarify the status of the alternative modernisation proposal submitted by the airports authority.

"We want to know what they have done with the report," senior communist MP Dipankar Mukherjee said.

"The AAI has both the expertise and the resources to take care of all the modernisation requirements in both Delhi and Mumbai airports and 35 non-metro airports," he added.

Workers said privatising the projects went against the national interest.

"They will sell the country like this," said SK Sharma, who works at New Delhi's domestic terminal.

An estimated 19 million domestic passengers passed through India's airports in the year to March 2005. Analysts predict growth rates of 20 per cent a year over the next five years as rising incomes and lower fares make air travel more affordable.

First Published: Jan 27, 2006 14:00 IST