Kerala Chief Minister Against "Unilateral" Airport Move, Writes To PM

The Kerala Chief Minister has sought Prime Minister Narendra Modi's intervention in leasing out the operations and management of the Thiruvananthapuram International Airport to a private company for 50 years.

The Union Cabinet has approved leasing out three airports to the Adani Group for 50 years.

Highlights

  • Pinarayi Vijayan sought the Prime Minister's intervention
  • The state government will not be able to "fully cooperate", he said
  • Congress's Shashi Tharoor has welcomed the Union Cabinet decision
Thiruvananthapuram:

Kerala's LDF government has objected strongly to the Centre's decision to hand over three airports, including the one in Thiruvananthapuram, to a private company for 50 years, saying it was against "the assurance given during a personal meeting with PM in New Delhi".

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi that the decision overlooked Kerala's repeated requests that the airport's operations and management be transferred to a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) in which the state government is a major stakeholder.

"The assurance was that as and when the indication of a private player is considered, Government of India would factor in contributions made by the state government for the development of the Trivandrum Airport," Mr Vijayan said in his letter to the Prime Minister.

Mr Vijayan stressed that the involvement of a private company in the operation and management of the Thiruvanathapuram airport is against the "the assurance given by Ministry Of Civil Aviation, Government of India in 2003... to factor in the contributions made by the state government for development of the airport".

The Kerala government had transferred 23.57 acres in 2005 "free of cost" to the Airport Authority of India for the construction of an international terminal on the condition that the land value should be reflected as the state's share capital in a Special Purpose Vehicle to oversee the airport's operations.

Mr Vijayan sought the Prime Minister's intervention, saying that the state government will not be able to "fully cooperate" in the light of the "unilateral decision" by the Union Cabinet on Wednesday.

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The letter also made a reference to the Kochi and Kannur airports, which are also operated and managed by the state government through Special Purpose Vehicles.

The Kerala Chief MInister had also called an all-party meeting at 4pm yesterday to discuss leasing out of the Thiruvananthapuram International Airport on a Public-Private Partnership basis.

Significantly, the Congress MP from Thiruvananthapuram, Shashi Tharoor, welcomed the decision to let private operations manage the airport.

"The reality is that a private entity running the operations competitively is the only way this airport could flourish. Whoever it is, the ownership of land and airport as well as the responsibilities of ATC, Security, Customs and Immigration still remains with the Govt agencies," he tweeted.

BJP MP V Muraleedharan also welcomed the decision. "Union Cabinet's decision...will ensure time-bound delivery of world-class passenger services, improve amenities and facilities," he tweeted.