The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Shackles off private airports

New Delhi, May 9: The lower house of Parliament today passed the Airports Authority of India (amendment) Bill which frees privately-owned airports from government control, limiting the state’s role to control of air traffic and security.

Private airports were freed from the control of AAI, a feature of the old AAI Act, as many potential investors had lobbied for this relaxation, officials said.

At present, greenfield airports with majority private participation are being built at Bangalore and Hyderabad. Earlier, private airports were built at Kochi, while others on the anvil are planned at Goa and Noida.

The new Act also allows the Airports Authority of India to set up joint venture airports with private entrepreneurs and to lease out facilities at airports it controls.

Top civil aviation ministry officials said the government plans to develop major airports at government cost and to rent out certain select facilities like shopping arcades, ground handling and not to lease them out wholesale to private operators.

The government has already budgeted this year to go ahead and develop Delhi and Mumbai airports at the cost of the exchequer into “world class airports.” It also wants to develop some 14 other airports, including Calcutta and Chennai, at government’s cost over a period of five years to 10 years.

The two airports to be modernised now will, however, be corporatised though equity control would remain in government hands. Sources said such corporatised airports may eventually be turned into joint venture airports at a later date.

The new Act also permits a levy to be imposed on passengers for the development of airports, upgradation or expansion. The government has brought this clause in to pay for the huge cost involved in modernising the two major airports — which is estimated to cost the government Rs 2,000 crore in the first phase.

The new amendments would also empower the government to effectively deal with encroachments on airport premises by setting up tribunals and appointment of eviction officers who will execute eviction notices.

Tribunals are to be headed by either retired high court judges or by persons who are otherwise qualified to be high court judges.

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