THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: There is a glimmer of hope for the Airports Authority of India (AAI) staff, who have been undertaking a series of agitation programmes to protest against the Centre’s decision to privatise the Trivandrum airport, as the Gauhati High Court has directed the Centre not to open the financial bids submitted by the private airport operators till the hearing on the petition seeking to quash the Centre’s decision to privatise the Lokapriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport at Borjhar, Guwahati, is completed.
This assumes significance in the state as Kerala is the second state which had challenged the Airports Authority of India decision to privatise the Trivandrum airport, whilst the state stood aloof from the proceedings and took a tactical stance on the issue by bidding for the airport while opposing the privatisation.
According to AAI officials, the hearing on public interest litigation filed against the privatisation of Trivandrum airport has been completed and the High Court will deliver its verdict on February 25, the day when AAI opens the financial bids of the airport.
The airport staff in Trivandrum airport are now reposing their faith in the Gauhati High Court directive of staying the proceedings as circumstances in Kerala are almost identical. While three companies have taken part in the bidding for Trivandrum airport, including state-owned TIAL, for which the KSIDC submitted the bid, as many as six companies had placed bids for the Gauhati airport.
The state stance has led to resentment among the airport staff and the general public who oppose the public sector disinvestment. The LDF has announced it would observe a black day on February 25, the day when AAI opens the financial bids, and take out an ‘airport Raksha’ march on February 28, the day when the winner of the bidding would be handed over the letter of approval.
On the one hand, the state has been publicly stating it would vehemently oppose the privatisation, while on the other it has been competing for the airport with private airport operators like Adani walking head-to-head and shoulder-to-shoulder with it. AAI sources said there is no need for the state government to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds.
If the state announces it would not sign the state support agreement with the winner of the bid, the Centre would have to drop the airport from the privatisation list. Last time when Kolkata and Chennai airports were put up for sale, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu governments forced the Centre to drop them from the privatisation list, saying they would not cooperate with the Centre.