Around 100 members of the Airports Authority Employees Union (AAEU) have launched a relay hunger protest against the government's decision to privatise Chennai airport.
L George, regional secretary (metro) of the union, said around 100 people were on a relay hunger protest and it would continue for the next four days. They would intensify their protest if the government did not respond positively.
He added, the Labour Commissioner at New Delhi held talks with the union and management where the union insisted the tripartite committee recommendations must be implemented.
According to George, AAI took up the new terminal project based on the government’s assurance that Chennai and Kolkata terminal would not be privatised and would be managed by the former.
The Chennai airport recently got a new domestic terminal as well as an international terminal with a total investment of Rs 2,015 crore. Privatising at this point would increase the user development and airport development fee, he alleged.
The AAI is expecting the period for pay back to be nearly 10 years. Chennai and Kolkata are the only two airports which are located in metros but are still under the AAI, and they account for a major share of the revenue earned by the public sector airport operator.
“The government is saying it was the Task Force which is doing it (taking the privatisation initiative) and the Task Force is pointing fingers at the government saying they are doing it,” George alleged.
The union said the employees would lose job security if the facility is privatised, even as the government has assured that no jobs would be lost due to the privatisation.
On October 8, the AAI said nine companies visited the Chennai Airport as a Familiarisation Trip’ as part of the plans to have a public private partnership (PPP) for the operation, management and transfer of Chennai airport. As reported, the companies visited the airport amidst protest by the AAEU.
The visit was according to the request for qualification (RFQ) for operation, management and transfer of the airport through PPP floated by the AAI. The parties/bidders, who visited the airport include IL&FS Transportation Networks Limited, Essar Projects (India) Ltd, Essel Infraprojects Limited, CIAL, GVK, Fraport Saudi Arabia – KAIA, Abdullah Kirimli (Celebi Havacilik Holdings A S), GMR Airports Limited and Sahara Group.
The new domestic terminal has a capacity of 10 million, while for international it is 4 million. The combined area of the new terminals is around 1,33,462 sq metre. The handling capacity in domestic is expected to go up to 16 million and the international to 7 million per annum with the new terminals.