Thursday, December 19, 2019

After takeover of Thiruvananthapuram airport, Kozhikode next in line

Thiruvananthapuram: With the Kerala High Court dismissing a batch of petitions filed against the privatisation of Trivandrum airport, including that of the state government, the decks are now cleared for the takeover of the airport by the winning concessionaire Adani Enterprises Limited (AEL). Though Adani had won the bid for the six airports in the country, the Letter of Awards (LoAs) for the Trivandrum, Guwahati and Jaipur airports were not issued as state governments concerned and Airport Authority of India (AAI) employee unions challenged the decision.

The petition challenging privatisation of Guwahati airport has been postponed to January 22 for further hearing, while there is no petition filed regarding Jaipur airport but the state government has been maintaining that it will not cooperate with the move. Once the Guwahati airport case is settled, there would not be any major hurdle for the Adani group for the takeover of remaining airports.

In addition, though Calicut airport has not figured in the next set of six airports -- Amritsar, Bhubaneswar, Varanasi, Indore, Raipur and Tiruchi airports -- to be privatised, sources close to AAI said it would also be privatised along with Madurai and Coimbatore airports. It is also learnt that though the Centre has awarded LoAs of Mangalore, Ahmedabad and Lucknow airports, the winning concessionaire has been delaying the takeover as part of buying time for preparing itself for the running of the airports. After the LoAs are awarded, the concessionaire has to seek security clearance. Once the clearance is granted, the concessionaire has to take over the control of the airports in 45 days.

Earlier, there were reports that the Kerala government and concessionaire have reached an agreement for sharing the stakes in the Trivandrum airport. In the new circumstances, it remains to be seen whether Adani would honour the understanding, if there was any. Still, the government has one final straw to clutch.

If it announces that it would not sign the state support agreement with the private entity, it would be difficult for the winning concessionaire to take over the airport as the agreement ensures the logistics required for the airport operations like water and electricity supply, and road connectivity. Meanwhile, S Ajith Kumar, secretary of Airport Authority Employees Union, Trivandrum, said the union would challenge the High Court order in the Supreme Court and it would not go back on its fight against privatising the airport.
19/12/19 Dhinesh Kallungal/New Indian Express

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