Let it take off
There is something strangely reassuring about the manner in which the government has stuck to its stand in the face of aggressive Leftist opposition to the privatisation of the airports.india Updated: Feb 06, 2006 01:39 IST
There is something strangely reassuring about the manner in which the government has stuck to its stand in the face of aggressive Leftist opposition to the privatisation of the airports. By now, most of us thought we knew the plot: the government would announce an economic reform; the Left would object and make noises about withdrawing support; trade unions would threaten agitations; and then, the reform would either be withdrawn or watered down so completely that it lost all meaning. The significant thing about the events of the last week is that they mark a break with precedent. And they provide evidence that Manmohan Singh has finally come to terms with the realisation that it is not right to be in office if you don’t do the right thing.
The case for the privatisation of Bombay and Delhi airports is unassailable. India has the world’s worst airports. The Airports Authority has proved itself to be unequal to the task of giving us the airports we deserve. Huge investments are required. And airport employees have done themselves a disservice by going on strike: most passengers were startled to discover that the airports seemed exactly the same even though thousands of employees had not bothered to turn up — what do these people actually do when they condescend to come to work?
Now the onus is on the government to ensure that the privatisation process is not lost in a welter of litigations filed by sore losers. The process of awarding the contracts was unusually transparent, involving as it did a group of senior ministers, the Planning Commission and a review by E. Sreedharan of Delhi Metro fame. Sceptics who had whispered that the Civil Aviation Ministry would favour a certain Bombay-based business house have now been silenced. And some of the world’s best airport operators will now have an opportunity to provide Indian passengers with services that are of global standards. It would be a shame if all this was lost because of nuisance litigations or political lobbying by influential businessmen eager to unfairly inveigle themselves into the modernisation process.