The Kerala government's attempts of garnering funds for its under construction airport ran into rough weather on Sunday when a group of NRIs questioned the 'agenda' behind the 'secrecy' of the details of private-public participation in the management and allotment of shares in the proposed airport.
Matters got worse when a senior bureaucrat said that they were not asking 'ordinary' Keralites to invest, if they don't have the money.
"Who is asking the ordinary NRIs to invest in the airport? Only NRIs with adequate money should invest," T Balakrishnan, additional chief secretary (industries) said at a discussion. The NRI crowd reacted angrily, asking how the official could demean them in such a way.
Balakrishnan was speaking at the chief minister's conference organised as a part of the ninth edition of the Pravasiya Bharatiya Divas. Senior bureaucrats and officials were discussing investment opportunities in Kerala to its NRIs.
A NRI based in Salalah, Dr (Hon) Sir KV Krishnan, told rediff.com post the session, "All I wanted to know was why the Kerala government took this long to announce the shares of the under-construction airport. With the current timeline, we have only 15 days to buy the shares. On top of that, it is mandatory for us to buy at least 2001 shares at Rs 100 per share. If a middle class NRI wants to buy these shares, how can he come up with Rs. 2,00,100 in 15 days?"
PK Kabir, who is the general secretary of the Overseas Indian Cultural Congress based in Salalah, told rediff.com, "What Mr Balakrishnan said was demeaning to all middle class Indians. I had brought the concerns of my group to the Kerala government representatives. Instead of trying and understanding our concerns, he made such a demeaning statement. Majority of Kerala NRIs are from the middle class."
The Kerala government is trying to raise Rs 1,500 crore from the public, but the shares are not a public offer.
When asked why the government had not advertised about the Kannur airport shares, Balakrishnan said, "This offer does not meet the requirements of an Initial Public Offering. It is merely the placement of private shares in the market. The guidelines for private shares clearly state that we cannot place advertisements about these shares in newspapers. Even in IPOs, investors get a maximum of 7 days; in this case we are offering 15 days."
A NRI businessman based in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, KTA Muneer said, "It would have made so much sense if the government had notified that people with a minimum of one crore rupee need apply. Announcing about the shares at the PBD, which is only attended by the richer class of Indians, is hypocritical."