The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Bengal scotches airport plot

New Delhi/Calcutta, Aug. 2: A move to get a private company to implement Calcutta airport’s modernisation has failed with the Bengal government not agreeing to it.

A Delhi-based businessman with political influence had sent feelers to the government about taking charge of the modernisation, estimated to cost Rs 750 crore in two phases.

In a letter to civil aviation secretary Ajay Prasad, Bengal chief secretary Amit Kiran Deb has said: “It (the state government) will not favour induction of private companies for the upgradation and modernisation of the Calcutta airport.”

CPM politburo member Sitaram Yechury cited the letter to drive home the point that the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government wanted the modernisation to be carried out by the Airports Authority of India (AAI), which is also the party’s stand.

There has been speculation that the party and Bhattacharjee did not see eye to eye on this because, purportedly, the chief minister had no problem with handing the work to private companies.

Yechury read out the letter, written on July 31, that said: “I would like to reiterate (that) the state government would like the Airports Authority of India (AAI) to go ahead with the implementation of the modernisation project….”

“Aeroports de Paris has won the global tender for designing the airport,” Yechury said.

Whatever may be his view about modernisation through private or public hands, there is no way Bhattacharjee would agree to a proposal to simply replace the AAI as the implementing agency with a private company, which is apparently what the Delhi businessman wanted.

According to an official’s comment: “He (the businessman) wanted to do a Benny Santoso (of the Indonesian Salim Group, which the state has chosen to implement a string of infrastructure projects).”

In any case, the AAI will get the job done with, most likely, a foreign tie-up since the expertise doesn’t exist in India, which is why Aeroports de Paris has done the design. After this, a global tender will be floated for the construction.

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