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July 18, 1998


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Karnataka CM urges Centre to clear world's first private sector airport project

Hectic efforts are being made by the Karnataka government to save the world's first private sector airport project, mooted by a Tata-led consortium, which is awaiting the Centre's clearance.

Chief Minister J H Patel on Friday urged Union Civil Aviation Minister Anant Kumar to hold discussions with Tata Group chairman Ratan Tata and persuade him not to shelve the Rs 27 billion project, proposed to be set up at Devanahalli, near Bangalore, the state capital.

He told newsmen that he would personally meet Prime Minister Vajpayee shortly and seek his intervention in this regard.

Saying that he did not receive any communication from the Tatas on shelving the project, he said an emissary of the consortium had met him recently and explained the economic viability of the project being affected by the delay in according sanction.

Patel said he had assured the emissary that the state had already cleared the project and would persuade the Centre to give its nod at the earliest.

The issue had resurfaced yesterday following reports that the Tatas had given up the project as Raytheon and the Changi Airport Authority of Singapore, the other joint venture partners, were backing out in view of the inordinate delay in its clearance.

Bogged down by the controversies over the land acquisition process and the nature of the proposal -- build, own and operate or BOO and build, own, operate and transfer or BOOT -- the proposal had been pending for a long time despite the Memorandum of Understanding signed in 1995 by the Karnataka government and the consortium.

Meanwhile, former chief minister M Veerappa Moily and Karnataka Rashtriya Navanirmana Vedike convenor R V Deshpande accused former prime minister HD Devegowda of stalling the project.

In separate press conferences, they alleged that though Gowda had cleared the proposal when he was chief minister, he adopted dilatory tactics during his tenure as prime minister.

Moily said the lethargic attitude of the state government and the indifferent attitude of the Centre were coming in way of the project.

Senior Janata Dal leader M S Gurupadaswamy also alleged that Gowda had bungled the project and demanded a probe into it.

State special secretary for industries N Vishwanathan, talking to newsmen, said Karnataka's economy would be "doomed" if the project did not come off. Several foreign investors had felt that Bangalore should have an international airport to facilitate investments in the state.


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