January 2, 2019
Md Nadimul Haque speaks on the repercussions of privatising airports
Sir, first of all, happy new year to you.
The recent decision of the Union Government of the privatisation of six airports – Ahmedabad, Jaipur, Lucknow, Mangaluru, Thiruvananthapuram and Guwahati – through the PPP model has led to a dire situation on the ground. While the Airports Authority of India employees are going on a three-day relay hunger strike and planning to take mass casual leave as a form of protest against the decision. This move puts thousands of jobs at AAI at risk. The AAI jobs at airports have reservations for people from the marginalised communities.
After privatisation, the job opportunities for them will reduce significantly. The staff will be hired on a contractual basis which may lead to exploitation. Also, the bidder quoting the highest per passenger fees for domestic travellers will be awarded the rights. It would automatically lead to an increase in airport fees and air fares. All in all, this decision has the potential to cause inconvenience to both the staff and the passengers.
It is also surprising that given the fact that the airport chosen for the exercise are all profit-making and are running smoothly. The Airports Authority of India has been elevated to a Mini Ratna status by the government as their performances were as per the required standards. Moreover, no adverse report has been reported against this authority by any parliamentary committee or any other agency regarding the performance of airports.
Then question then one should ask is, why fix something which is not broken. Though the aviation sector is not in dire straits, changes in this aspect at least are not needed. In this regard, the government must provide an explanation as to whether the employees or other stakeholders like the respective State Governments were consulted while taking this decision. If not, then I would like to urge the Government to consult the concerned stakeholders and incorporate their views regarding the costs and benefits of this exercise before taking any further steps.