New Delhi: A Parliamentary panel has said it is at a loss to understand why the government rejected a 2006 proposal of Airports Authority of India to modernize Delhi and Mumbai airports, while questioning the move to privatize these facilities.
“Had the government agreed to this proposal of the AAI, the (modernization of) Mumbai and Delhi airports would have been completed by this time,” the Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture said in its latest report.
While opposing privatization, the report said the AAI proposal, which promised to revamp the two facilities in a much shorter time, was “turned down for unknown reasons.”
The panel, headed by CPI(M) leader and MP Sitaram Yechury, said it had learnt that “the government was planning to hand over 15 more profit-making airports to private parties in the name of constructing greenfield airports.”
Maintaining that privatization of airports was a “total negation” of the best global practices, it said globally most successful examples of airport management are known to have retained public control, even while outsourcing some particular activities to private people.
The Committee, which includes lawmakers from all major political parties, said that many international airports had successfully brought in private parties to invest in areas such as cargo handling, parking bays, servicing and overhauling facilities and maintenance of terminal buildings.
“However, in India we are handing over the entire airport to the private parties, which is in total negation of the best practices available in the world,“ the panel said.
If private players could manage the necessary resources within India, “why can’t the AAI be allowed to pursue the same business strategy. The Committee does not agree with the government’s logic that the modernisation of airports can be done only through privatization. It is a wrong and misplaced assumption,” it asserted.
Flaying the Planning Commission and other agencies for “violating” decisions of the Prime Minister’s Committee on Infrastructure (CoI), it asked the Civil Aviation Ministry to entrust commercial operations of terminal buildings at the 35 non-metro airports with AAI.
Maintaining that modernisation of terminals at these non- metro airports was being given on the “sly” to private players for development, Yechury had earlier said it was a “serious matter that a CoI decision had been violated and side-stepped in practice.”
Observing that commercial operations of terminals was a “profit-making activity” that would generate huge revenues for AAI, he said taking them out of its ambit would push the state-run body to bankruptcy. “Once AAI goes bankrupt, the logical step then will be to privatise it,” Yechury had said.
The Parliamentary panel said the plan body had already prepared a model concessionaire for modernisation of airports and their terminals through the PPP route for 30 years.