Monday, October 27, 2008

'HAL airport closure illegal'

'HAL airport closure illegal'
DH News Service, New Delhi:
The Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture, a parliamentary panel headed by CPI (M) leader Sitaram Yechury, has found fault with the shutting down of the HAL airport in Bangalore and said that the decision would face serious legal scrutiny.

The panel also said such a provision did not exist in the “concession agreement” initially prepared and approved by the Union Cabinet.

The agreement signed later by the government with the Bangalore International Airport Limited (BIAL) on July 2004 had a clause that made it mandatory for the government to stop any commercial civil aviation operations in the Hindustan Aeronautical Limited Airport from the date the greenfield airport at Devanahalli became operational, it said.

After its hearings with the Civil Aviation ministry, the Airports Authority of India (AAI), its employees and the BIAL, the panel found that the clause relating to the closure of the old airport was introduced in the agreement at a later stage “after a demand was made to this effect by the BIAL”.

The panel also quoted the AAI employees union (AAEU) which had pointed out that according to the Aircraft Act, an airport could be shut down only if the security of the country and the safety of aircraft were under threat. “In the case of HAL airport, both these reasons are not present,” the panel said.

The union had pointed out that the old airport cannot be shut down as the phrase “commercial civil operations” was not defined yet anywhere in the Acts or rules, like the Aircraft Act, the Aircraft and Civil Aviation rules.

The panel urged the government to “revisit the various provisions of the concession agreement to ensure that all the illegalities, etc, creating misgivings in people’s mind, are removed from it.”

The panel maintained that commercial operation of the terminal buildings was a profit-making activity that would yield revenues for the Airport Authority of India, which could have been reinvested in developing operations. It recommended that the commercial use of terminal buildings should be entrusted to the AAI.

The Committee said it was informed that the closure of the HAL airport had resulted in an estimated revenue loss to the AAI to the tune of Rs 389 crore in 2007-2008.

Moreover, it rendered jobless many direct and indirect workers, including trolley retrievers, small-time vendors, taxi and auto drivers and loaders


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