Thursday, December 24, 2009

‘Report on BIAL missed focus’

‘Report on BIAL missed focus’
Bangalore Dec 23 DH News Service

With a key member of the Joint Legislature Committee (JLC) D K Shivakumar doing a volte face and rejecting the recommendation of the report on Bengaluru International Airport (BIA) claiming that only seven of the 20 members of JLC had endorsed it, the issue has now resulted in divided opinions over the lack of focus in the report.

Aviation entrepreneur Capt G R Gopinath said he has not read the contents of the report but opined that the focus of the real issue has been lost, which is replacing a public sector monopoly by a private one.

Speaking to Deccan Herald he said, “It is not appropriate to name N R Narayana Murthy, the chief mentor of Infosys who was chairman of BIAL until 2005. The State government decided to get Narayana Murthy on board when the financial closure was happening.
They needed him to have the project moving then. Pointing fingers at Murthy or others is missing the main issue. The issue here is monopoly versus competition. Multiple airports are needed in growing cities, the world over to expand markets and create demand.”

According to Capt Gopinath, who spearheaded the need to introduce low cost flying options for the consumer, even if BIAL is the best, it is competition in the airport space that will determine better quality and price.

“Unwillingly, public sector monopoly has been replaced by one from the private sector, a monster. The government has given too many concessions to BIAL. Has it been passed on to the end-user, the consumer? It appears not,” Capt Gopinath observed and added that BIAL was offered land at Rs 2 lakh per acre which has now appreciated to Rs 2 crore.

Pointing out that the core activity of BIAL is the business of being an airport operator, Capt Gopinath further said the State has unwillingly created a monopoly.

“It appears that real estate activity such as construction of an airport City, hotels and malls has taken priority over amenities. It is built well, but horribly congested. There is no space for chartered aviation flights,” he said.

Sagar clarifies

However, JLC chairman and MLA Dr Hemachandra Sagar indicated that the report has actually not indicted Narayana Murthy at all. A spokesperson for Dr Sagar said the Committee did not name Narayana Murthy directly as being responsible for the BIAL fiasco.

“Dr Sagar has already said that he did visit Murthy unofficially and sought his responses and observed that that Murthy was not blamed for the BIAL construction,” the spokesperson said.

He also said that Dr Sagar had not read the contents of the letter written by Congress leader D K Shivakumar to the Speaker on Wednesday and would not be able to comment on the charges of Shivakumar against the findings in the report.

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