Kerala: Communist Government Asks Centre To Review Privatisation Of Thiruvananathapuram Airport, Says It Won’t Cooperate With Adanis

by M R Subramani - Aug 20, 2020 12:27 PM +05:30 IST
Kerala: Communist Government Asks Centre To Review Privatisation Of Thiruvananathapuram Airport, Says It Won’t Cooperate With Adanis  Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. 
  • Pinarayi Vijayan led LDF government in Kerala refuses to cooperate with Centre’s plan to privatise Thiruvananthapuram international airport.

The Left Democratic Front (LDF) government in Kerala has told the Union government that it would be difficult for it to cooperate in implementing the Union cabinet decision of allowing the Adani group to take over the Thiruvananthapuram international airport.

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to review the Centre’s decision to lease out the airport in Kerala’s capital.

Yesterday (19 August), the Modi cabinet cleared a proposal for leasing out airports at Thiruvananthapuram, Jaipur and Guwahati through public-private partnership (PPP) model.

Thiruvananthapuram is among the six airports for which Adani Enterprises Limited, an arm of the Adani group, has won the rights to manage operations. The other airports are Lucknow, Ahmedabad, Jaipur, Mangaluru and Guwahati.

The Adanis had won the rights to operate, manage and develop the airport for 50 years through a bidding process in February 2019.

On 20 February this year, the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) government in Kerala moved the Supreme Court challenging the Airport Authority of India’s (AAI) decision to allow Adani Enterprises to operate, manage and develop Thiruvananthapuram international airport.

The petition has been sent to the High Court with the Airport Employees Union being another party that is against the AAI decision. In December last year, the Kerala High Court had dismissed the state government and Airport Employees Union petition, saying it is for the Supreme Court to decide as it was a Centre-state dispute.

In his letter to Modi, Vijayan said: "In view of the unilateral decision taken by the Government of India without giving credence to the cogent arguments put forward by the State government, it will be difficult for us to offer co-operation to the implementation of the decision, which is against the wishes of the people of the State."

The Kerala Chief Minister also sought Modi’s intervention “at this stage” to reconsider the AAI decision.

Vijayan pointed out that the Centre had repeatedly ignored the state government’s decision to allow private management of the airport. The Kerala government has been seeking the creation of a special purpose vehicle with the state a major stakeholder to manage the Thiruvananthapuram airport.

He pointed out that the cabinet decision was against an assurance given by the Civil Aviation Ministry in 2003 to consider the state government’s contribution to airports’ development when it decides induction of private players.

There are two issues arising out of Kerala government’s objection to the handing over of the Thiruvananthapuram airport to Adani Enterprises.

One, the state has provided 23.57 acres to AAI free of cost for the construction of the international terminal. The state has stipulated the condition that the land value should be considered as Kerala government’s share in the special purpose vehicle that could be set up to manage the airport.

Two, Adani Enterprises will have to secure the state support agreement from the state government, which opposes airport privatisation, to take over the Thiruvananthapuram airport.

In addition, Adani Enterprises may have to await the outcome of the case filed against the AAI decision to privatise Thiruvananthapuram airport.

Vijayan insists that the state government has experience in the management and operations of Kochi and Kannur airports, something, he claims, Adani doesn’t possess.

Vijayan said his government had asked for delinking Thiruvananthapuram airport from the proposal to operate in PPP mode. It had sought the first right of refusal for the SPV of the state government to match the quote of the highest bidder.

“None of these has been considered," Vijayan added, lashing out at the Centre’s decision.

The United Democratic Front (UDF), led by the Congress, has also asked the Centre to reconsider its decision to let the Thiruvananthapuram airport on lease to the Adani Group.

Senior Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala said the airport was the state’s asset and the state government was willing to take over the airport.

The LDF and United Democratic Front stand comes on the heels of the state government creating special purpose vehicles to run the international airport at Nedumbassery in Kochi and the newly-launched Kannur airport.

The Kochi airport is being profitably run, while the Kannur airport has been able to get the targeted number of passengers.

M.R. Subramani is Executive Editor, Swarajya. He tweets @mrsubramani

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