THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: With Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan hardening his stance on the privatisation of Trivandrum International Airport, Adani Enterprises and the Kerala Government are bracing for a face-off.
After the state government’s efforts to bid for the airport failed to yield any results, Pinarayi had hardened his position, saying the government would not cooperate with the private concessionaire regarding privatisation.
Sources close to the state government said the state is unlikely to sign the ‘state support agreement’ (SSA) required for handing over the airport to the concessionaire.
The SSA is vital for the concessionaire to take over the airport as the agreement ensures power, water, electricity, road and land required for the running and expansion of the airport.
CM reiterates his stance
T’Puram: Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said in the assembly on Thursday that the state would not give up its rights over the Trivandrum airport. Replying to a submission by C Divakaran of the CPI, he said the state has taken all possible steps to avoid the situation.
If the state abstains from signing the agreement, the concessionaire will have to drop the project from its priority list. Last time, the Centre had dropped Kolkata airport privatisation plan after West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee refused to sign the agreement.
The Chief Minister has also reportedly conveyed the decision to the Union Civil Aviation Secretary that it would not cooperate with the concessionaire in the wake of the demands being not considered by the Centre.
In the case of bidding, the state has sought the right of first refusal ((ROFR). But the Centre that first granted the ROFR in the beginning later revised the order clarifying Kerala will have to take part in the bidding and can have a go at right of first refusal only if its bid is within a range of 10% of the highest bid. The NITI Aayog meeting to be held by June 15 is expected to take a call on giving the letter of approval to the winning bidder, which has to be ratified by the Cabinet in the monsoon session.
In February, the Gautam Adani-owned conglomerate had emerged the highest bidder for six Airports Authority of India (AAI)-run airports put up for privatisation. It won the bid for the Trivandrum airport by quoting Rs 168 for a domestic passenger. But the handing over of the airport was put on hold due to the model code of conduct.
The Centre announced the proposal for carrying out operations, management, upgrading and development of six airports on a public-private partnership (PPP) basis for 50 years last November as part of providing world-class infrastructure and services to passengers.
Right from the beginning, AAI employees and the state government had been opposing the move. The strike launched by the Airport Authority Employees Union, Thiruvananthapuram, will cross 200 days on Monday.
Meanwhile, the meeting of Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari with Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Tuesday in the capital raised apprehensions, with various stakeholders thinking if it was part of any kind of negotiation.