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Vijayan meets Modi; raises issue of Trivandrum airport’s privatisation

New Delhi | Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Saturday said Prime Minister Narendra Modi has given the assurance that he would consider the grievances of the state with regard to privatisation of Thiruvananthapuram International Airport and seek a report from the Aviation Ministry in this regard.

Vijayan, who met the media after the 5th Governing Council Meet of NITI Aayog here, said the credibility of Kerala government to run international airports has been appreciated by international agencies like the United Nations.

The Adani group had, in February, won a bid to operate five out of six airports, including the Thiruvananthapuram airport, proposed for privatisation by the central government.

“The Adani group lacks the experience of running an airport. However, the Kerala government has shown its experience in managing airports,” the chief minister said.

“The Cochin Airport is an example. The effort was even recognised by the United Nations. With this experience, we decided to start and operate the Kannur International Airport. Now we have two international aerodromes operated by the government successfully,” he said.

The state government had earlier appealed to the Centre to reconsider its decision to lease out Thiruvananthapuram aerodrome for operation, management and development under the public-private partnership (PPP).

The Left leader said the central aviation secretary had given a written assurance in 2003 that the Centre would consider the state government in good faith before taking a decision with regard to privatisation of airports.

“The 635 acre land in which the airport is situated was given by Travancore king and the state government. Therefore, it cannot be transferred to any private agency.

“The Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation also participated in the bid. Hence, the Centre cannot hand it over to Adani group, which is a private company, which has no previous experience only by citing the reason that they had quoted comparatively high amount,” Vijayan said.

In a letter to the prime minister in March, the chief minister had demanded that the airport’s operation be handed over to the Thiruvananthapuram International Airport Ltd (TIAL) floated by the government-run Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation (KSIDC).

However, the Adani group had emerged as the highest bidder for managing, operating and developing six AAI airports, which are to be privatised.

“The prime minister has given assurance that he would consider the demand of Kerala and would seek a detailed report from the Aviation department in this regard,” Vijayan added.

The airport was established in 1932 on 258.06 acres of land owned by the princely state of Travancore, of which the state is the successor. The 258.06 acres of land had been entered into the revenue records as government land.

The Airports Authority of India (AAI) has admitted that only 0.05756 hectares out of the total extent of 636.57 acres of land are under its ownership.

The state government claims it has the expertise in airport management and also creditworthiness, more than that of the private entity, which does not possess previous experience in airport management.

Earlier in the day, Vijayan also met Union minister Nitin Gadkari and discussed the development of the state’s national highways.  Gadkari told media after meeting Vijayan that the southern state’s demands will be considered.

“I was there in Kerala last week. The roads are not wide. They are narrow and there is heavy traffic. But the cost for land acquisition when compared to other states is four folds high. This amounts to a major hurdle in the national highway development,” he said.

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