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Left check on airport update

New Delhi, Jan. 14: Even as the group of ministers (GoM) decided to meet on January 24 to take a final decision on the controversial bidding for the Mumbai and Delhi airports, the CPM has stepped up its offensive against the move, cautioning the government against diluting norms.

The GoM is awaiting clarifications from the Sreedharan committee on the manner in which it awarded marks to various bidders as well as other procedural matters. A final view on the airport modernisation exercise is expected to emerge after that.

CPM leader Dipankar Mukherjee today wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh urging the government to stick to the bidding norms and not to relax or change any of the eligibility criteria.

At the recent GoM meeting, the civil aviation ministry proposed limited re-bidding for those consortia, including Reliance, that had earlier been shortlisted but found ineligible by the Sreedharan committee.

In his letter, Mukherjee said he was shocked that the GoM “is reportedly trying to pressurise even the Sreedharan committee to re-examine all bids and to tap (the) top three bids for each airport with an ostensible aim to dilute the eligibility criteria.”

“This clearly shows that reasons other than the urgency of modernisation of airports is dictating the so-called transparent bidding process.”

The CPM leader, who had been earlier vocal on the government’s divestment initiative, sought Manmohan Singh’s intervention and directive to ensure fair play and to avoid changes in the evaluation process merely to “facilitate privatisation at any cost.”

The state-run Airports Authority of India should be given the job “without resorting to a blind search for private enterprises.”

The CPM seems to be coming out in support of the stand taken by the Sreedharan committee set up to review the bids. The committee had advised the two airports be developed by AAI through a special purpose vehicle in which foreign airport developers, too, could participate.

The expert panel, headed by Delhi Metro chief E. Shreedharan, had ruled out the award of the contract to the Reliance-Mexico consortia after re-evaluating the bid and awarding it lower marks on certain counts. It has instead sought to cut down time in developing the two gateway airports by getting the AAI to do the work in partnership with foreign airport developers whom they would be free to chose.

The Sreedharan committee was set up after an earlier government review committee (GRC) said the criteria for selection was subjective and there could be variations in findings.

The GRC said the inter-se marking across various bidders for the same criterion based on experience, expertise and commitments could be different.

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