State cooperation necessary to run TVM airport smoothly: Pinarayi during all-party meet
Thiruvananthapuram: Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan stated that irrespective of who takes over Thiruvananthapuram airport, it cannot be run without the cooperation of the state government. The cooperation of the government is essential in developmental activities. Those who understand business will not be ready to take over the airport challenging the state government. Pinarayi Vijayan was speaking at an all-party meet convened on Thursday.
In 2005, the state government handed over 23.57 acres of land free of cost to Airport Authority of India for the development of Thiruvananthapuram International airport. The procedure to take over another 18 acres of land and hand it over is already underway.
The land was handed over with the understanding that the value of land will be considered as the state’s share in the SPV. The 258.06 acres of land belonging to Royal Flying Club, which was handed over by the former Travancore state, is also included in the 636.57 acres of airport land.
Pinarayi told the all-party meet that the state government had asked for the management and the operation of the airport with the Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) in which it will be the
major shareholder. The Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation (KSIDC) had taken part in the bidding.
"The state government had also informed the Centre that we were ready to offer the amount quoted by Adani enterprise," Pinarayi was quoted as having said in the meeting by a release issued by the Chief Minister's office.
"Winning bid quoted to Rs 168 per passenger, KSIDC quoted Rs 135 per passenger and third qualifying bidder was at Rs 63 per passenger", Puri who took to Twitter to clarify the Centre's stand on the airport's 2019 privatisation process, said.
Per passenger fee was the criteria for the bidding process that was conducted in early2019 for the six airports and Adani Enterprises was the highest bidder. Puri said before the bidding process began, the Centre and the Kerala government had agreed that if the KSIDC's bid comes within the 10 percent rangeof the winning bid, it would be awarded the airport.
However, as the difference between Adani's bid and that of KSIDC was 19.64 per cent, the former was qualified as the winner.
"Thus, despite special provision of ROFR(Right of first refusal) being given to GoK (Government of Kerala), they could not qualify in the international bidding process carried out in a transparent manner", the Civil Aviation Minister said.
Vijayan also told the meeting that the legal options were also being explored by the state government and sought support of all political parties for "protecting Kerala's interests".
In his letter to Modi late Thursday, the chief Minister said the leaders at the all-party meet felt there was no justification for overlooking the claim of the state.
"Leaders also expressed the view that Trivandrum International Airport should have been retained in the public sector and the Union Government should have facilitated the expansion of the Airport by providing support for refueling aircrafts," he said.
Earlier in the day, Union Minister V Murleedharan attacked the Kerala government and said its stand exposed its "double standards" as the state already had "private airports" and the attempt was to take away the attention from the recent gold smuggling case.
"The state government's opposition to privatisation of Trivandrum airport has exposed their double standards. The Left party is ok to have private Airports at Calicut and Kannur with a mere 32.5 per centand 30.16 per cent stakes for the state, but oppose Centre's move with a better share for the government of India," he said in Delhi.
CPI(M) General secretary Sitaram Yechury slammed the Centre for the decision alleging that the move was a "loot of national assets" and would lead to escalation of ticket prices.
"Privatisation of airports is loot of national assets to fatten profits of cronies. Then issue Electoral Bonds to raise party funds. Kerala CM's letter makes it clear that this is happening by betraying assurances of PM Modi on the state government's proposal", he said in a tweet.
In a press release, the CPI claimed granting the airports to a single business entity and group would lead to monopoly.
It alleged that the group will "squeeze" the extra revenues from passengers and airlines.
Describing the decision asa "dictatorial act", Leader of the Opposition in the state Assembly Ramesh Chennithala of Congress said it was 'unacceptable' and should be 'resisted' while state party chief Mullapally Ramachandran called the move 'deplorable'.
However, former union minister and Thiruvananthapuram Lok Sabha MP Shashi Tharoor has come out in support of the Centre's decision, saying "a private entity running the operations competitively is the only way this airport could flourish".
"The people of Thiruvananthapuram want a first-class airport worthy of the city's history, status and potential. In this context, a decision, however, controversial, is preferable to the long delay we have suffered", he tweeted.
Slamming Tharoor, state minister Kadakampally Surendran said his stand was "treacherous" and sought his apology.
(With PTI inputs)