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Left smells 'scam' in airport privatisation

Left says the task of modernisation of both airports should have been given to the AAI as it was better equipped for it.

india Updated: Mar 17, 2006 17:53 IST
Press Trust of India
Press Trust of India

The CPI (M) on Friday alleged scam in the way Mumbai and Delhi airports have been privatised.

"I smell a scam here," CPI (M) member Dipankar Mukherjee said initiating a short duration discussion in Rajya Sabha on the procedure followed by the government for restructuring of these airports.

Questioning the authority of empowered Group of Ministers (eGoM) to change the eligibility criteria for the bidders mid way, he said the group mandate was to finalise the successful bidders and how could it have changed the criteria.

"It would open a pandora's box and we could see it happening in other contracts at all levels," Mukherjee said.

Taking exception to the head of the eGoM refusing to face Parliament, he said if the government was taking a stand that the minister dealing with the issue should answer the House, why did Finance Minister P Chidambaram comment on the issue of airports when he was abroad.

He said the task of modernisation of both airports should have been given to the Airport Authority of India (AAI) as it was better equipped for it financially too.

"While the winners of the contract have reserves of around Rs 65 crore, the AAI has total reserves of Rs 3,000 crore. This would have enabled to raise loans of more than Rs 9,000 crore for the task," Mukherjee said.

Mukherjee said that by privatising Mumbai and Delhi airports and closing down airports in Hyderebad and Bangalore to make the greenfield airports by private players viable, the government would be killing the source of revenue of AAI which supports smaller airports.

He said that successive governments have denied requests of AAI to take up modernisation of Delhi and Mumbai airports and now the same task was being given to private players who would rely on government-owned financial institutions for loans.

He was supported by former Civil Aviation Minister and senior JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav, who said the corporate land mafia was eyeing huge land at Delhi and Mumbai airports.

He said that privatisation of important airports would make AAI, which has built 126 airports across the country in the last 50 years, unviable and it would become a burden on the country.

Yadav also questioned modernisation of airport in Mumbai when there is no space for building a new runway there to handle increasing traffic.

"A new airport should have come up in new Mumbai," he said.

Jaiprakash Agarwal of Congress, however, supported the government and said the country needs modern airports.

Tariq Anwar of NCP said airports were an important infrastructure and mirror of the country and government has taken right step in deciding to modernise them.

First Published: Mar 17, 2006 17:12 IST