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Left somersaults on airport revamp

The ruling Left Front in West Bengal on Tuesday said it was not averse to modernisation of the Kolkata airport.

india Updated: May 23, 2006 20:15 IST

In an ideological somersault, the ruling Left Front in West Bengal on Tuesday said it was not averse to modernisation of the Kolkata airport in keeping with the central government's policy of private groups undertaking the job.

Despite its strong protests against the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government's move to modernise the Mumbai and Delhi airports by private companies instead of the Airport Authority of India (AAI), West Bengal Industry Minister Nirupam Sen said their government would not oppose the same criterion if was applied to Kolkata.

"We have told the centre that our airport (NSCBI airport) has to be modernised too. Ideally, AAI should do this work since they have the competence and we all want that, but if the centre takes a stance that modernisation would be done only by private groups then we have to rethink our stand since upgrading the Kolkata airport is vital for us," a pragmatic Sen told a news channel.

"If we take an adamant stance saying that we would not allow privatisation of the airport unless it was undertaken by the AAI it would not be in favour of the people of the state," Sen said.

"We must realise the constraints of running a state government within the framework of a policy formulated by the centre. So we may ideologically oppose the privatisation move but at the same time if laws are passed, we have to abide by those laws."

Sen said there is no reason why the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), the trade arm of the Left, would oppose the move "because without the cooperation of CITU we would not have been able to progress thus far".

Ignoring opposition from the Left parties and airport employees, the central government last month signed two agreements to set up joint venture companies between AAI and the GMR and GVK consortiums to hand over the Delhi and Mumbai airports for modernisation.

First Published: May 23, 2006 19:23 IST