Apropos your excellent all-encompassing editorial “AAI’s flight plans” (May 16); I think the initiative — ably supported by our savvy minister Jayant Sinha — is definitely a step in the right direction. With passenger footfalls touching an awesome 26 per cent at some of these ‘smaller’ airports, we just can't afford to not upgrade them. In fact, some of these may be ‘smaller’ only in comparison with the ‘Big Four’ — Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Bengaluru — but are otherwise very big. Then again, these things work like the proverbial chicken and egg story; we make Chennai, Kolkata etc world class and there will automatically be a sharp increase in the growth rate of new flights landing there and, of course, the passenger footfalls.
As far as the model of development to be adopted, one thing is clear: it just has to be a PPP model — public-private partnership — with the government involvement being restricted to land issues and security concerns; and concept, design, construction, interiors, technology, maintenance and day-to-day management should be left to the private partner. The successful examples on the ground offer a lot of learnings and I am sure the experienced technocrats at the Airports Authority of India (AAI) and the Niti Aayog have, by now, most of the answers to the very pertinent issues flagged by you in the last two paragraphs. A great advantage is having a civil aviation minister like Jayant Sinha, who is clear thinking, has foresight, an analytical mind, global exposure and, above all, is a very amiable and reasonable personality.
The government must not give in to the temptation of awarding contracts to the so called ‘L-1’ bidders. They are all competent enough to assess the ground realities and are dedicated enough to take considered views and pick up the best.
The union issue is a thorny one but, again, this minister's approach would hopefully lead to a reasonable solution. I do hope the Prime Minister’s office is in favour of moving the matter forward expeditiously.
Krishan Kalra Gurugram
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