Friday, August 21, 2020

Puri says Kerala already running two 'very successful' airports under PPP model

New Delhi: The Kerala government is running two "very successful" airports under the public-private partnership (PPP) model and it is still opposing handing over the Thiruvananthapuram airport to a private operator, civil aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri said on Friday.

His remarks come after Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan wrote a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi opposing the Union Cabinet's approval to lease out the Thiruvananthapuram airport to Adani Enterprises under the PPP model for a period of 50 years.

Puri asked why did the Kerala government participate in the bidding process for the Thiruvananthapuram airport if it has been against privatisation.

"Kerala is the pioneer as far as airports under PPP are concerned. First PPP airport in India came up in Kochi in Kerala,” Puri tweeted.

The Kochi airport "is a successfully run airport" that handled 9.62 million passengers per annum in 2019-20 before COVID-19, he noted.

"In fact, it was during the UDF (Congress-led coalition) regime in Kerala that the foundation for Kochi airport was laid in 1994 and the airport was inaugurated in 1999 during LDF (Left-led coalition) regime," he said in a tweet.

Another very successful example of an airport operating in PPP mode is in Kannur, also situated in Kerala, he said.

"Now, Kerala Government, running two very successful airports in PPP mode, is opposing the handing over of Thiruvananthapuram airport under PPP mode," he said.

"It has come to my knowledge that an all-party meeting in Kerala has opposed the PPP model at Thiruvananthapuram airport," Puri said.

The minister said the airports in Delhi and Mumbai which handle around one-third of India's air passenger traffic were privatised using the PPP model during the first term of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government in 2006-07.

"In comparison the 6 airports now being handed over, only handle less than 10% of the country's total passenger traffic," Puri mentioned.

Adani Enterprises had won the rights to run six airports - Lucknow, Ahmedabad, Jaipur, Mangaluru, Thiruvananthapuram, and Guwahati - through the PPP model after a competitive bidding process in February 2019.

In July 2019, the Union Cabinet had approved the proposal for leasing out three airports - Ahmedabad, Mangaluru and Lucknow - to Adani Enterprises.

On Wednesday, the Union Cabinet approved the proposal for leasing out the other three airports.

"If Kerala Govt is against privatisation, then why did it participate in the bidding process? State Govt was given a fair chance & Right of First Refusal (RoFR) if their bid was within 10% below the range of highest bid. However, they bid 19.64 % below," Puri tweeted.

After losing the bid for the airport, the Kerala government then approached the Kerala High Court on this matter which dismissed the petition in December 2019, Puri noted.

"Petitioners then filed a SLP (special leave petition) in Hon'ble SC. Apex Court remitted the matter back to Hon'ble Kerala High Court. There is no stay in the case either by Hon'ble SC or Hon'ble Kerala High Court," he said.
21/08/20 PTI/Times of India

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