Tuesday, March 30, 2021

As Privatisation of More Airports Hits Runway, Jittery AAI Staff Plans Protest Action

New Delhi: Multiple union bodies representing different class of employees of the Airport Authority of India (AAI) have planned to intensify their campaign against privatisation and launch an agitation against handing over of airports to private players.

Under the banner of the Joint Forum of Unions and Associations of AAI, the unions have urged the Centre to roll back its plan for privatising more Indian airports.

To begin with, the unions have given a call to stage a one-day dharna on Wednesday, March 31, in front of all AAI establishments, including the airports controlled by it and the regional headquarters. This will be followed by lunch hour demonstrations every Wednesday.

Having earmarked an ambitious target of raising Rs. 2.5 lakh crore through asset monetisation in the upcoming 2021-22 fiscal year, the Narendra Modi-led Central government has given a green signal to privatise AAI-owned airports in Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities, as announced last month by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman during her Budget Speech.

Consequently, the Ministry of Civil Aviation identified 13 AAI airports to be monetised through the OMDA (Operation, Management, Development Agreement) model, as per an Indian Express report.

Among these, the AAI board had approved the leasing of six airports – Bhubaneshwar, Varanasi, Amritsar, Raipur, Indore and Trichy – earlier, while seven more airports – Jharsuguda, Kushinagar, Gaya, Kangra, Jalgaon, Jabalpur, and Salem – were reportedly shortlisted recently.  

The AAI plans to bundle the airports in the latter group with the former one before offering it to the prospective bidders. This decision is in line with its proposed new model to club a profitable airport with a non-profitable one, before putting them on the block.

The Ministry of Civil Aviation is hoping to raise Rs. 20,000 crore through sale of assets under the upcoming round of privatisation that is set to kickstart from April.

The Centre has already privatised six airports – Ahmedabad, Lucknow, Mangalore, Jaipur, Guwahati, and Thiruvananthpuram – last year. Besides, the government is also now looking to divest the remaining equity stakes held by AAI in the Delhi (26%), Mumbai (26%), Bengaluru (13%) and Hyderabad (13%) airports.

30/03/21 Ronak Chhabra/Newsclick

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