It is true that participation from India was negligible in the Earth Hour, the global initiative regarding climate change (“A candle in the dark”, Quick Edit, 1 April). However, in an altogether different way, Maharashtra (barring Mumbai) contributes to containing the consumption of electricity and thereby lessens the pollution burden. I refer to the load- shedding that happens for more than six hours every day! There seems to be little by way of initiative to overcome this problem, despite Maharashtra being one of the most important states in India. Leading business houses seem to maintain a deafening silence in this matter.
— Ketan R. Meher
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is recently said to have quipped, “If Bangalore fails, India fails!” Looking at the flip-flop and flawed approach towards our city’s most prestigious project — the Bangalore International Airport Ltd (Bial) at Devanahalli — evidently, Singh’s prognosis is about to come true.
One can easily point out how Bial is acting just like the monopolies that dominate and even strangle our economy by preventing competition. Bial is yet to provide adequate warehousing facilities for customs and freight operations — both of which earned the existing (HAL) airport more than Rs3,000 crore. The Bangalore Customs House Agents’ Association expects Bial’s handling charges to be much higher than HAL’s.
Not providing competitive, adequate facilities for customs operations seems a deliberate tactic of Bial. A recent parliamentary report on the airport issue in Bangalore and Hyderabad noted that “profit maximization seems to be the most primary motive”.
Ideally, private sector investment in infrastructure should mean a decline in user charges for services, given its higher competitiveness, productivity and efficiency. In case of Bial, there has been no tangible reduction in any sort of charge for any service. On the contrary, charges have only increased—overboard.
Another instance is how Bial is not encouraging competition in the award of contracts to subconcessionaries — an inadequate number of players are awarded contracts, thus restricting participation. Such practices are evident in taxi commuting services where only two players were awarded contracts — bypassing the state-run KSTDC drivers, who are normally accredited and deemed safe by the state government.
Bial has more land (4,000-plus acres) than Singapore’s Changi International Airport (3,200-plus acres). Bial’s argument that it could not provide adequate cargo facilities is a farce, as it has more land — and cheaper labour — than Singapore.
External competing special interests are wreaking havoc here — as generally seen all over India. The recent flip-flop over air traffic control (ATC) services at Bial is an example of how special interests dominate the market. HAL has been contracted by AAI (Airports Authority of India) to provide ATC services at Bial. On the face of it, we can see that HAL wants the existing airport, which it operates, to continue. If so, why would HAL want to dig its own grave by providing ATC at the new airport?
Drafting a concession even before conception of the new airport should have taken into cognizance the need to provide a competitive environment in the infrastructure sector.
However, given that the Union civil aviation ministry has drafted an Airports Regulatory Authority Bill in September 2007, one hopes it will foster competition in the Bangalore and Hyderabad airports. Consumers should take active interest in pointing out anti-competitive moves by Bial to the Competition Commission of India.
- Malolan R. Cadambi