Day after massive stir, six possible bidders to come calling at airport
Even as all the unions of airport employees staged a massive stir at the AAI operations office on Monday afternoon, at least six private players who are in the fray to take over operations of the Chennai airport terminals will be arriving for a visit on Tuesday.
According to well-placed sources in the Airports Authority of India (AAI) management, six teams of representatives from various corporate houses who have evinced interest in bidding for control of the Chennai airport will be arriving at 8 am on Tuesday and will proceed for a tour of the newly constructed terminals, “They will be officially examining the ground realities and this is sure to influence their decision regarding whether they want to bid for the tender or not,” said the source.
In preparation of the tour, four top officials from AAI came to Chennai on Monday to speak to union leaders and officers to prepare them for the impending privatisation process.
It may be recalled that the decision to privatise the Chennai airport had been on the cards well before the Rs 2200 crore modernisation project was completed. Everyone from Union Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh to AAI Chairman V P Agrawal had been hinting at it, till the news that a tender would be floated for a private partner (under the PPP model), went public in January.
Since then, the Airport Employees Union, Kamdar Union, AAI Officers Association and other minor unions have been staging anti-privatisation protests sporadically, but with little impact on the general tender process.
However, when the officials - Vilas Bhujang (Executive Director - HR), Raju Dureha (GM - HR) and others - asked to meet with the unions to explain the privatisation process with a presentation, it sparked off a stir.
“We will oppose this as much as we can. Several families and lives will be affected if they privatise this airport. We cannot afford to allow this to happen,” said a union leader who led the agitation.
Close to 1200 employees gathered outside the building on Monday evening and raised slogans against the management and the MoCA. More protests are imminent, but AAI officials remain resolute and said the privatisation will be implemented smoothly, “despite minor issues like this”.