Monday, May 19, 2008

IT/BT honchos bat for HAL airport, slam state

IT/BT honchos bat for HAL airport, slam state

BS Reporter / Chennai/ Bangalore May 17, 2008, 4:06 IST

Bangalore's IT and BT majors have staged a rebellion against the government: This time, their ire is against the closure of the existing HAL airport.

A day after the Union civil aviation ministry issued a notification directing the closure of the HAL airport from May 23 following the launch of the new Bangalore International Airport (BIA) at Devanahalli, the industry players put up a collective fight on Friday under the banner to Bangalore City Connect Foundation (BCCF) — a non-profit organisation that seeks to unite urban stakeholders outside the government — to demand continuation of the old airport.

The BCCF members slammed both the Centre and the state for failing to renegotiate with the Bangalore International Airport Ltd (BIAL) on keeping the HAL airport open despite a directive from Karnataka High Court. The members have decided to launch a demonstration at the HAL airport in Saturday to protest against the governments' failure.

Addressing a press conference here, Biocon chairman Kiran Mazumdar Shaw said the closure of the HAL airport was detrimental to competitive business edge and was not in the interest of the public good. "Bangalore's growth momentum can be ensured only by allowing both the airports to flourish.

Though the Karnataka High Court directed the governments to renegotiate with BIAL, the former has chosen not to stating that the contract (concessonal agreement) signed between with the private promoter does not for allow it," she said.

Terming the contract as a fraud, she said it would send wrong signals if amendments to it were not made. "The passenger growth projections, on the basis of which the agreement was signed a few years ago, was relevant then. Now the circumstances have changed and the city which is on a high growth trajectory should be allowed to operate two airports. So there is a case to renegotiate now," she said.

The BIAL was asking for monopoly status and the people cannot be held hostage to such an agreement, she said. and added: "A developing country like ours cannot afford to close down an existing infrastructure when everybody knows that there is an infrastructure lacunae".

Joining her, Infosys Tehnologies vice president (humar resources) T A Mohandas Pai said the closure of HAL airport would damage Brand Bangalore further. "The IT industry is already upset with traffic congestion, this would worsen it further. Almost 30 per cent of people from the IT industry in Bangalore travel outside India at least once a quarter.

If they spend one or two hours just on commuting to the airport, it will be a major problem that will impact the industry's growth in the next five years," he said. The IT industry in Bangalore, is currently, growing at 30 per cent per annum. "If 35,000 vehicles hit the Bellary Road which leads to the BIA, imagine what kind of delays it would cause," Pai said.

Concurring with him, Sudip Bannerjee, a long time Wipro executive and currently the director of PremjiIinvests, said : "We have already started getting requests from our IT clients seeking meetings in Chennai and other places." The distance between Electronic City and Devanahalli was 77 km, he pointed out and adding: "The journey can be less tiresome if the HAL airport is allowed to operate."


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