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'People of Thiruvananthapuram want a first class airport'

By SHOBHA WARRIER
August 21, 2020 08:32 IST
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'Mr (Gautam) Adani invested in Vizhinjam port when no other viable party was willing to bid.'
'He has also been active in charitable work and CSR projects in our coastal areas.'
'As the local MP, I do not judge the local situation purely through the prism of politics.'

IMAGE: Thiruvananthapuram airport. Photograph: Kind courtesy Trivandrum Airport/Facebook

The central government's decision to lease out the airports at Jaipur, Guwahati and Thiruvananthapuram through public-private partnership, has met with stiff opposition from the ruling Left Democratic Front government in Kerala.

The Adani group had won the rights to operate six airports -- at Lucknow, Ahmedabad, Jaipur, Mangaluru, Thiruvananthapuram and Guwahati -- through the PPP model after a competitive bidding process in February 2019.

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan in his letter to Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi said, 'In view of the unilateral decision taken by the Government of India without giving credence to the cogent arguments put forward by the state government, it will be difficult for us to offer co-operation to the implementation of the decision, which is against the wishes of the people of the state.

"," Dr Shashi Tharoor, who represents Thiruvananthapuram in the Lok Sabha, tells Shobha Warrier/Rediff.com.

 

Why is it that both the LDF and the Congress are against the Centre's decision to lease out the Thiruvananthapuram airport along with two more airports through the PPP model to the Adani group, in which the state government also is a stakeholder?

You will have to ask them!

My position is clear: 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. That is why I welcomed the Cabinet decision of Wednesday.

Some of the best airports in India are working under the PPP model. As the MP from Thiruvananthapuram, why do you feel it will not help improve the standards of the airport if it is maintained by a private party?

On the contrary, my position is that PPP will help improve standards. The reality is that a private entity running the operations competitively is the only way this airport could flourish.

Whoever the private party is, the ownership of land and airport as well as the responsibilities of the ATC, security, customs and immigration still remain with the government agencies.

The general perception is that there will be more professionalism and less bureaucracy if governments exit from businesses. Do you agree?

Yes.

The state government wants to entrust the management of the TVM airport with the special purpose vehicle in which the state government is the major stakeholder. Do you support this?

I am an open-minded person, but once an open competitive process was announced, in which the state government participated and lost, I fail to understand why this issue is up for discussion again.

The travelling community in Thiruvananthapuram is tired of this political back-and-forth which has created so much uncertainty for our airport. In the meantime we are losing flights and passengers to Cochin.

I would rather have a private operator anxious to achieve excellence in Thiruvananthapuram than a government-run airport which is a step-sister of Cochin and Kannur and run by a government whose priorities are there rather than here.

Why did the Congress say that the Centre is privatising all PSUs when the country is battling COVID-19? What is the connection between the two?

I am not a party spokesman. Please ask those who said this.

Is the objection by the Congress actually against the Adani group, or the PPP model itself?

I am not a party spokesman. Please ask those who said this. As you know, the PPP model was originally introduced by the UPA-I government in 2006, starting with the airports in Mumbai and Delhi respectively.

The Modi government has been criticised for supporting the Ambanis and the Adanis. Do you also feel so?

I share my party's general concerns about crony capitalism under the present government, but it is not my style to take names.

As for Mr (Gautam) Adani, he invested in Vizhinjam port when no other viable party was willing to bid. He has also been active in charitable work and corporate social responsibility projects in our coastal areas.

As the local MP, I see all this and do not judge the local situation purely through the prism of politics.

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SHOBHA WARRIER / Rediff.com
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