Congress alleges corruption and demands probe into the privatisation of airports
The Congress on Tuesday demanded a probe into the privatisation of six airports in the country alleging violation of rules and corruption, a charge denied by the BJP which said there is complete transparency under the Modi dispensation.
Initiating the debate on 'The Aircraft (Amendment) Bill, 2020', Congress member K C Venugopal alleged that the government was promoting crony capitalism by privatising airports in the name of developing them.
"There is a move to monopolise the Indian airports. In future, all Indian airports will be owned by only one company. How can you allow this...There is a clear violation of norms and regulations in giving airports to a single private entity. This is a clear scam of public money," he alleged.
"I am asking for an inquiry into all this. This is a clear case of corruption," he said.
Venugopal alleged that the government was bypassing norms and guidelines to favour a private entity and has ignored the advice given by its own ministries.
The recommendations of the Department of Economic Affairs and Niti Ayog on technical, financial and legal aspects of bidding process were ignored by the government, he said.
"There is an international attempt on the government to help crony capitalists. The government is paving red carpet for monopolisation of airports in the country," he alleged, adding till now Adani group has won bids to operate and develop six airports of Ahmedabad, Lucknow, Bengaluru, Jaipur, Guwahati and Thiruvananthapuram.
He said even when the Bill was pending in Parliament, the government sought bids to privatise six airports on December 18, 2018 and many players have alleged that the timeline for the bids was extremely short and there were a number of anomalies in the clauses for the bids proposal.
The Congress member also said that the concerns of state governments of Rajasthan and Kerala were not taken care of by the government. Both Rajasthan and Kerala have objected to the proposal for privatising Jaipur and Thirivananthapuram airports, for which land was given by the states.
The Kerala assembly has also passed a resolution against the privatisation of the Thiruvananthapuram airport, he said.
Countering the charge, BJP member GVL Narasimha Rao claimed there was complete transparency in developing airports and alleged that crony capitalism was promoted during the previous Congress-led UPA regime and cited 2G and coal auctions when courts had to intervene.
He said the civil aviation sector has undergone transformation under the Modi government and passenger traffic has more than doubled in the last five years and risen by 118 percent, against 54 per cent rise in the previous five years
"The real crony capitalism was during the previous regime. There is a transparent regime and a credible and transparent method is being adopted to develop airports in the country," Rao said.
The objective of the prime minister is to make air travel safer and accessible for all sections of society and not just for the elite, he said.
The BJP member lauded the government's Vande Bharat mission under which 12.4 lakh Indians were evacuated from across the world during the COVID-19 lockdown and Air India ran 2500 of the total 4,000 flights in the "biggest evacuation exercise".
Rao said the government has evolved an ambitious plans for the expansion of the aviation sector and was investing Rs 13,000 crore to develop 12 airports in the country and enhance airport network and infrastructure.
He said India was ranked third largest in the world in the domestic civil aviation sector and 4th/5th largest in terms of international air traffic.
Venugopal earlier highlighted safety concerns in the aviation sector and said there were 47 near miss incidents in 2018. He also highlighted the shortage of flight safety officials and this, he alleged, might have been a cause for rising "near miss" cases.
He also demanded a statement from the minister on the Calicut airport incident involving an Air India Express flight.
"There is no clarity on what led to the incident. Government has to clarify how permission was given to wider aircraft earlier on the table-top airport in Calicut, where such flights are now not allowed," he said.
He also sought to know the real status of grant of compensation to victims of the Calicut airport crash.
Dinesh Trivedi (Trinamool Congress) lauded the Vande Bharat mission and asked the government to restructure Air India but not sell it.
"If Air India was not there, the private players would not have been there. Air India is a very good airline. You can change its structure, but please don't sell it. Drop plans to sell it," he said, demanding a complete revamp of the Aircraft Act saying it has become outdated.