Thursday, January 21, 2021

Privatisation of Thiruvananthapuram airport imminent

Thiruvananthapuram: The Thiruvananthapuram airport has been privatised disregarding the protests by the airport staff and the state government, which had later lost steam. Now it’s only a matter of months before the winning concessionaire, Adani Enterprises Ltd (AEL), takes over the airport’s reins from the Airports Authority of India (AAI). 

A senior AAI officer said as per the request for proposal (RFP), AEL has to take over the airport within six months of signing the agreement. “AEL and AAI will then run the airport jointly for a year after which AEL will have to fully take over the control of the airport. It should offer at least 60 per cent of the jobs in the airport to existing AAI employees, who can either accept it or look for deputation to other AAI-controlled airports in India after rejecting AEL’s offer. It’s their choice,” said the officer. 

The government has been saying it would not cooperate with AEL as the airport was handed over disregarding the state’s request to retain it in the public sector or run it in PPP mode. AEL will have to make the government sign the state support agreement as it is vital for ensuring basic requirements like water, power and other utilities needed for the functioning of the airport. 

The state’s threats, however, will not pose a headache for AEL at least for now, for various reasons.First, the government cannot disconnect the basic services to the airport as it is currently functioning. Second, if the state insists that it would not sign the support agreement, AEL can take the legal route to get the required basic facilities. The state cannot go on stalling the deal as it would affect the airport’s operations and invite the wrath of people in southern districts. 

Moreover, a confrontation will not bode well for the airport. It urgently requires 18 acres of land from the Vallakadavu-Karali area for a new domestic terminal, the acquisition process of which is halfway. The airport, which only has a temporary licence now, has to extend the runway’s width by 150m on both sides. It requires around 13 acres of land from the BrahMos and Travancore Titanium Products sides for threshold lighting and increasing the length of Runway End Safety Areas (RESAs). For setting up a parallel taxiway, it requires land from the Chakka fire station side. These urgent needs require a coordinated effort from various Central and state agencies. 

21/01/21 Dhinesh Kallungal/New Indian Express

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