Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Now, Comm okay with AAI’s Kolkata plan but objects

New Delhi, May 20 Days before its meeting with the parliamentary standing committee on civil aviation, the Planning Commission, in a project appraisal letter to thefinance ministry, has backed the Airport Authority of India’s (AAI) proposal for the modernisation of the Kolkata airport but reiterated its stand, including a review of the size of the new terminal.

In its appraisal letter to the secretary, expenditure, ministry of finance, who is also the chairman of the public investment board (PIB), just ahead of the meeting with the parliamentary panel on May 22, the commission has stated that it does not have any objections to the AAI’s plan for the modernisation and expansion of the Kolkata airport.

It is, however, stuck to its earlier demands. A senior official involved in the process told FE that the commission wants AAI to undertake the modernisation work in two phases and take a re-look at the issue of peak-hour traffic and construction of a terminal to handle 20 million passengers by 2016.

“We have said that we support the proposal but we want the AAI to look into the transportation issue. At present, the airport is not connected by metro rail. The AAI should ensure that as part of the modernisation process, the metro is be extended to connect the airport,” the official said.
The parliamentary panel intervened in the issue following a spat between the commission and civil aviation minister Praful Patel who alleged that the Kolkata modernisation project was delayed due to constant objections raised by the commission.

“The commission is more eager to put most of the modernisation projects on the PPP mode. They have not realised the mess they have created out of privatising the Delhi and Mumbai airports. They will be happy if we put the Kolkata and Chennai airports also on the PPP mode,” a senior Parliamentarian on the committee had said earlier.

Under pressure from the Left parties, the UPA government had to go back on its words and settle for the AAI modernising the Kolkata and Chennai airports instead of the government’s preference for taking up the projects under the PPP route.

Peeved over the delay in clearing the modernisation and expansion works at the Kolkata and Chennai airports and the mess that has been created of the privatisation of Delhi and Mumbai airports, the parliamentary panel headed by CPI-M Politburo member Sitaram Yechury had summoned both the Planning Commission and...


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