The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Centre flies into Left airport storm

New Delhi, March 16: The CPM today charged the Centre with allowing a private entrepreneur to walk away with control over Hyderabad's new airport even though the government was contributing the bulk of the money.

CPM leader Nilotpal Basu said: 'Our MPs from Andhra Pradesh have written a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh pointing out that the government has invested resources worth Rs 1,000 crore while the private partner has invested a mere Rs 250 crore. Yet, control has been given to the entrepreneur.'

The government has arranged a soft loan of Rs 450 crore and given 5,000 acres for the airport at Shamshabad, 25 km from Hyderabad.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi today laid the foundation stone for the airport, which is at the centre of another storm over naming it after Rajiv Gandhi. Sonia defended the project, saying that 'the new facility will boost tourism and bring in foreign exchange.'

The private partner consortium, which includes a local construction firm and Malaysia Airports Holding Berhad (MAHB), has invested Rs 250 crore but will have management control of the airport.

Basu also protested another clause in the deal that promises to shut down the existing Begumpet airport to favour the new Rs 1,418-crore airport. 'Studies indicate the Begumpet airport can continue to function for another 10-12 years without any fresh investments... we thought this was an era of competition. The deal smacks of a monopoly.'

Basu said his party would oppose the shutting down of the existing airport. He said the Congress-led government was pursuing a project which the earlier TDP and BJP governments at the state and the Centre had tried to push through.

'The same deals are being pursued in the same pattern. The proposal finalised by the TDP and NDA has been unfortunately picked up by the UPA government,' he added

Work on the Shamshabad airport started today after Sonia laid the foundation stone.

Two CPM members of Parliament, Menumalli Madhu and M. Babu Rao, from Andhra Pradesh have written the letter to the Prime Minister, alleging that the new airport is against national interest.

Basu said that 'our objection is not about the name of the airport but about the project. The UPA and the BJP are clashing on a non-issue.'

He also demanded an immediate stop to a reported move to re-sell the Juhu Centaur hotel, which was disinvested when the NDA government was in power.

Bank strike

The Left parties are also unhappy with the UPA government's refusal to heed their opposition to reforms in the banking and insurance sectors.

Bank employees are going on a one-day national strike on March 22 and the insurance employees on March 23 and 24. Employees in the power sector are planning similar action next month.

The federations backed by the CPM and the CPI enjoy wide support among the employees in these sectors.

'The employees are forced to go on strike because of the government's indifferent attitude,' said CPI member of Parliament and trade union leader Gurudas Dasgupta.

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