Confrontation brewing between Kerala govt., Centre over privatisation of Thiruvananthapuram airport

South India

The Left Democratic Front government in Kerala is gearing up for a confrontation with the Centre over its decision to hand over the Thiruvananthapuram International Airport in the state capital to Adani Enterprises.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has shot off a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi warning that the state will not cooperate with the implementation of the decision taken by the Union Cabinet on Wednesday, August 19. The Cabinet had decided to hand over the airport in Kerala along with the Jaipur and Guwahati airports to Adani.

The three are part of the six airports for which Adani Group had won bids in 2019. The other three are, Lucknow, Ahmedabad and Mangaluru. Earlier this year in February, the Group had signed the concessionaire agreement to start operations in Mangaluru, Ahmedabad and Lucknow airports. Overall, the Modi government plans to put about 35 airports on the PPP model, over the next five years.

The chief minister has sought to muster support for the government stand by calling an all-party meeting. The main opposition led by the Congress has been opposing privatisation of the airport. However, local MP Shashi Tharoor supported the decision saying that it was the only way to ensure the development of the airport and world class amenities to the passengers.

Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president Mullappally Ramahcandran has slammed the Thiruvananthapuram MP’s view saying that the party would strongly oppose the privatisation of the airport.

The chief minister, in his letter to the Prime Minister, pointed out that the decision to hand over the airport to the private party for 50 years was against the assurance given during a personal meeting with PM in New Delhi".

“The decision overlooked Kerala's repeated requests that the airport's operations and management be transferred to a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) in which the state government is a major stakeholder.The assurance was that as and when the indication of a private player is considered, Government of India would factor in contributions made by the state government for the development of the Trivandrum Airport," Vijayan said in his letter to the Prime Minister.

The Kerala government had transferred 23.57 acres in 2005 "free of cost" to the Airport Authority of India for the construction of an international terminal on the condition that the land value should be reflected as the state's share capital in a Special Purpose Vehicle to oversee the airport's operations.

Pointing out that litigation on the matter is pending before the Kerala High court, the Chief Minister said, "It will be difficult for Kerala to offer cooperation for implementation of the "unilateral decision" by the Union Cabinet. The letter also made a reference to the Kochi and Kannur airports, which are also operated and managed by the state government through Special Purpose Vehicles.

Image Credit: New Indian Express

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