The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Govt relaxes airport policy

New Delhi, April 29: The Cabinet today decided that green field airports — with majority private participation — will have independent status with the government limiting its role to control of air traffic and security by amending the old Airport Authority Act.

The Cabinet also decided to withdraw an earlier amendment to the Act — moved two and a half years ago to allow leasing of AAI airports to private parties — and replace it with a new set of amendments.

The new amendment, which will facilitate implementation of a fiscal package cleared in this year’s budget for greenfield airports, comes on the back of objections by the parliamentary standing committee on civil aviation.

The thinking in the civil aviation ministry is to develop major airports at government cost and rent out select facilities like shopping arcades and ground handling instead of leasing them out wholesale to private operators.

It has already budgeted this year to develop Delhi and Mumbai airports into “world class airports” at the cost of the exchequer. It also wants to develop 14 other airports, including Calcutta and Chennai, at government cost over five years.

The two airports to be modernised now will be corporatised though equity control will remain in government hands. Sources said they may eventually be turned into joint venture airports.

The new amendments will also empower AAI to effectively deal with encroachments on airport premises. They will also have a provision for collecting fees at all airports from user airlines, which will be used for airport modernisation and development.

Greenfield airports are now being built at Bangalore and Hyderabad. One was earlier built at Kochi. Two more will be built in Goa and Noida.

The Cabinet also cleared a fresh set of changes to the Companies Act, 1956. Based on the Naresh Chandra committee formed for firmer auditing regulations, the new Act is likely to take steps to check auditor-management nexus.

Sources said a CCEA meeting held today decided to defer a long-term integrated LNG policy following differences on pricing between the ministries of petroleum, finance and fertilisers.

The petroleum ministry wanted the Cabinet to grant infrastructure status to LNG projects which could have up to 100 per cent foreign direct investment, a 10-year tax holiday, zero customs duty on imported gas and a lowering of sales tax or VAT.

The CCEA approved raising BPCL’s equity in the 6-million tonne Rs 7,500 crore Bina refinery from 26 to 50 per cent.

Ambedkar park

The Cabinet also decided to set up an Ambedkar National Memorial in Alipur Road area of northwest Delhi, where the Dalit leader breathed his last.

The decision comes in the backdrop of a recommendation by the Centenary Celebrations Committee of B.R. Ambedkar.

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