The Kerala government and the opposition Congress on Wednesday expressed strong reservations over the Centre's nod to lease out Trivandrum international airport to Adani Enterprises and demanded that the decision be revoked. Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan also wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi stating that it will be difficult for Kerala to cooperate if the decision is against the wishes of its people.
In his letter, Pinarayi expressed his protest against the unilateral decision of the Centre and said it would be difficult for the state to offer cooperation in implementing the decision which is against the wishes of the people of the state.
The CM has requested PM Modi to reconsider the decision to lease out the Trivandrum airport under the PPP model for 50 years. He also pointed out to the PM that a petition against the move was pending in the Kerala High Court.
In February 2019, the financial bid for privatising five airports in the country was opened and it was won by Adani Enterprises. The four other airports that the Adani firm bagged are situated in Mangaluru, Ahmedabad, Lucknow, and Jaipur.
The Kerala government too, placed a bid but the Adani firm won it by quoting a higher amount. While the Kerala government bid for Rs 135 per passenger, the Adani firm quoted Rs 168.
Kerala Tourism Minister Kadakampally Surendran also slammed the Centre and asked the state BJP unit to explain the development. "This is one of the biggest scams to hand over the country's first international airport in independent India to a private party. This is a big corrupt deal and all of us here will oppose it tooth and nail. Spread over 657 acres of prime land acquired over many years, this airport makes a profit of Rs 170 crore in a year but has been handed over to Adani Group for a pittance," Surendran said.
"It must be noted that this leasing comes at a time when the Airports Authority of India is investing Rs 600 crore for a new runway and the acquisition process for another 18 acres is underway. The lone Keralite in the Union Cabinet, V Muraleedharan, and other BJP leaders here should explain why this corrupt deal is taking place. We will seek legal recourse also," the Minister added.
"Our government presently runs the airports at Cochin and Kannur and is well-versed in the operations. We even went to the extent of matching the figure quoted by the Adani company, but it was not accepted. We will continue to raise the issue and we will not give up," Surendran asserted.
Leader of Opposition and Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala demanded that the Centre reconsider its decision.
"This airport is the wealth of Kerala. The Centre is doing all sorts of things when the COVID-19 pandemic is peaking. The state government had appealed that it was willing to take over the airport, but the Centre ignored it. We register our strong protest over this deal," said Chennithala.