A parliamentary panel on Tuesday opposed the privatisation of six AAI-developed airports including Kolkata and Chennai, and charged the Civil Aviation Ministry with doing "a great disservice" by "using public property for private profits".
Instead of giving away the airports to the private sector "on a platter", state-run Airports Authority of India (AAI) should form a subsidiary or a special purpose vehicle to grant management contracts to entities having expertise in the field, the Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture recommended.
In its report tabled in Parliament, the committee said it was "dismayed that instead of strengthening AAI by giving it much needed financial and administrative autonomy to enable it to take its own decisions without being influenced/advised by either the Ministry or the Planning Commission, a decision to give our airports on platter to private parties was taken.
"The Committee fails to understand the logic behind privatising all these airports after spending tax payers' money for modernising them. The public utilities created by public fund cannot be given to private parties for commercial considerations."
The report comes at a time when the process of privatizing the airports at Chennai, Kolkata, Lucknow, Jaipur, Ahmedabad and Guwahati is underway. The Committee, headed by senior CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury, said it was "surprised to see the unusual haste being shown in the process of privatisation right from the constitution of Task Force, of three Inter-Ministerial Groups one after another, placing the matter before Cabinet and obtaining clearances, process of pre-bidding etc".
It also castigated the Planning Commission's model of public private partnership (PPP), with Yechury later telling reporters that PPP actually implied "using public property for private profits. That seems to be the real PPP model".
The Committee also did not buy Planning Commission's argument that the AAI would not be able to manage these airports and earn money.
It recommended that the public sector airports' body should be empowered to take decisions on generating resources rather than handing over core activities of newly-modernised airports to private players.
The privatisation of airports has also been opposed by several political parties, including the Left, with JD(U) chief and former Civil Aviation Minister Sharad Yadav also seeking immediate stoppage of the process, claiming that "undue haste" was being shown to benefit "pre-determined parties".