Decision to hand over airport to Adani group 'unilateral,' difficult to cooperate: Pinarayi writes to PM Modi

Decision to hand over airport to Adani group 'unilateral,' difficult to cooperate: Pinarayi writes to PM Modi

Thiruvananthapuram: The Kerala government urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday to intervene and reconsider the handing over of the management and operation of the Thiruvananthapuram airport to the Adani group, saying it would be "difficult" for the state to cooperate in implementing the decision.

The Union cabinet on Wednesday approved the proposal for leasing out airports at Jaipur, Guwahati and Thiruvananthapuram through public-private partnership (PPP).

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 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," Vijayan said in a letter to Modi.

"I request your good self to intervene at this stage so that the decision taken now is reconsidered," Vijayan said.

He pointed out that the decision was taken "ignoring the repeated requests" of the state government to entrust the management of the airport with the special purpose vehicle (SPV) "in which state government is the major stakeholder".

The chief minister said the Civil Aviation Ministry had in 2003 gave an assurance that as and when the induction of a private player was considered, the Centre would factor in the state government's contribution to the development of the airport.

The Kerala government had earlier transferred 23.57 acres to the Airports Authority of India free of cost for construction of the international terminal, "subject to the condition that the value of the land would be reflected as Government of Kerala's share capital in an SPV which would be set up", Vijayan said in the letter.

He said in a meeting of the empowered group of secretaries, convened by the NITI Aayog in 2018, the state government had explained the details of public funds spent for acquiring the land.

"The pertinent point raised by the state government is that it has proven experience in successful management and operation of airports in Kochi and Kannur, which the private bidder lacks.

"We had requested delinking the Trivandrum Intrenational Airport from the proposal to operate in PPP mode or allow the SPV of the State government to have the right to first refusal in order to match the quote of the highest bidder. None of these has been considered," Vijayan said.

LDF, UDF flay Centre's decision

Earlier, the ruling Left and the opposition Congress had lashed out at the Centre over its decision to lease out three airports to the Adani group, accusing it of privatising all PSUs while the country was battling COVID-19.

Terming the decision as "daylight robbery", the government demanded that it be withdrawn.

The Congress too made a similar demand and said the airport belongs to the state.

Tourism Minister Kadakampally Surendran said the state government has been managing the Cochin and the Kannur International Airports (CIAL and KIAL) in a profitable manner by forming a company.

"They have already sold out our port (Vizhinjam). Now our pride, the airport, has been handed over. While the Centre does not have time to handle the pandemic, they convened a cabinet meeting to hand over the airports to the Adani group for 50 years. This amounts to challenging the people of the country. They should withdraw this decision," Surendran said.

"It's the centre's policy to privatise all Public Sector Undertakings in the country amid the COVID situation. We condemn this move. The Centre took this decision after rejecting the state government's proposal to take over the airport," Opposition Leader Ramesh Chennithala said in a statement.

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