Congress Alleges Modi Govt Working for Corporates; Warns Against Tinkering with Article 35A

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. — File photo

Abdul Bari Masoud | Caravan News

NEW DELHI — Calling it a government catering to “corporates”, Opposition Congress said that the move to privatise 20-25 airports out of the existing 123 has exposed the Modi government’s face yet again – as every decision ends up benefiting and profiting big corporates. The party also warned the government not to tinker with the special status of the troubled state of Jammu and Kashmir.

Addressing a press conference at the party’s headquarters, party spokesperson Pawan Khera said that the Congress has been bringing in facts from time to time, which expose how every decision taken by Modi Government ends up benefiting and profiting big corporates only and goes against the common Indian.

“Whether it is the decision of bleeding MTNL/BSNL to benefit private operators or the decision to handover airports to the Adani Group, every such decision shows the real character of this government,” Khera claimed.

Airports Authority of India Chairman Guruprasad Mohapatra had said that the government would hand over 20-25 more airports to the private sector in the next phase, which had already privatised six airports earlier. A few months ago, the cabinet approved the decision to give 5 airports to the Gujarat-based Adani group, which is considered to have close ties with the present government.

Khera claimed that the Aviation Ministry ignored the recommendations of NITI Aayog and Department of Economic Affairs (DEA), as both were not in favour of awarding one private group a contract for more than two airports.

It is to be noted that the week the government amended the Airports Economic Regulatory Authority of India Act of 2008, all such airports which the operators got, based on predetermined fee will be out of the purview of the Airport Authority of India.

The Congress leader alleged that this basically means that all 5 airports handed over to the Adani Group, will virtually have no government control for the next 50 years.

The Finance ministry had recommended not to award the same company more than two airports out of the 6 airports that were to be privatised. The government’s PPP Appraisal Committee (PPPAC) completely ignored this. Another suggestion made by the Department of Economic Affairs (DEA) and the Niti Ayog was the requirement of prior experience in Operation and Management and also of providing the total project cost upfront for each of the airports to be privatised, which were also not taken into consideration.

The DEA also cited the example of GMR in the past which was the only qualified bidder for both Delhi and Mumbai airports, but the company did not get both the airports, he pointed out.

He reminded that the PPPAC took protection under a decision taken by the Empowered Group of Secretaries (EGoS), which said that there is a restriction placed on the number of airports to be awarded to a single entity.

The DEA was also very critical of the fact that the detail of “total project cost” was missing from the RfP document. The Ministry of Civil Aviation claimed that it was not possible to calculate the project cost for 50 years, according to Khera.

Only 14 out of 123 airports in India are running on profit, and the rest on loss. Of the 14 profit making airports, 5 have been handed over to the Adani group. Interestingly enough, the central government also approved levying of the Aviation Security Fees (ASF).

He said that the government has brought in aviation security fee in place of a passenger service fee and it will cost passengers 1.5 times more.

“It is very visible who is profiting from and who is losing in all these decisions. All the conditions which were raised in the first place for fliers’ interests are being set aside”, he added.

The Congress spokesperson said that the previous UPA government had decided not to award Delhi and Mumbai airports to the same group even though it had emerged as the only successful bidder.

“The public must know the real face of the Modi government which only talks of ‘sabka saath, sabka vikas’ but in reality has betrayed them”, he said.

About the deployment of more troops in Jammu and Kashmir as part of the plan to abrogate Article 35A, Khera said the BJP should desist from making Kashmir its “laboratory for experiments”. The Congress leader urged the Modi government to consult all stakeholders before making any such decision in the state and for resuming the political process in the state which has come to a standstill in the last few years.


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