In a late night development, chairman of the state-run Airports Authority of India, V P Agarwal, was removed from his post apparently because of his "opposition" to privatisation of more airports in the country, sources said.
Alok Sinha, who is currently joint secretary in the Aviation Ministry and handling the airports, has been given additional charge of the post, according to government orders.
Agarwal was resisting the privatisation of six more airports, including Kolkata and Chennai. But the government is in a hurry and wants the process to be completed before going into elections. For this reason, Agarwal had to give up his post, sources said.
The government had in September last year decided to allow private parties to pick up 100 per cent equity stake in operation and management of the six airports - Chennai, Kolkata, Guwahati, Ahmedabad, Jaipur and Lucknow - through the public-private partnership (PPP) mode.
Incidentally, Agarwal's five-year term as AAI chairman had expired last December but he was granted an extension.
Even national airports unions are bitterly opposed to giving out government airports to corporate players, alleging that the move would reduce the already shrinking revenue of the AAI due to the privatisation of country's two busiest airports - Mumbai and Delhi.
The unions have also asked the government to hand over small airports in the country to private players for development, instead of giving away high density traffic airports.
A parliamentary panel had last year also opposed privatisation of government airports in the country. "Privatisation of airports is a great disservice being done to the country by this government. Public assets are being placed at the disposal for private operators...”
"Undue haste is being shown in the process...we want to know from the government why it proceeded with that sort of haste as that leaves a scope for lots of issues to be interpreted," CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury, who is chairman of the Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture, had earlier said after submitting a report on airports privatisation to Parliament.