Rajya Sabha passes Aircraft Bill giving teeth to 3 regulatory bodies

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on September 15, 2020

Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri   -  PTI

Cong charges govt of ‘monopolisation, nepotism, scam’ in airport privatisation

The Aircraft (Amendment) Bill on was approved by the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday paving the way for defining the three regulatory bodies in the sector such as the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) and the Aircraft Accidents Investigation Bureau (AAIB) and also providing statutory powers for them.

Rejecting the Opposition’s criticism against the privatisation of airports, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said the experiment started in 2006 has remained a success and the AAI has earned a whopping ₹29,000 crore by privatising major airports and the amount has been used to develop airports in other parts of the country.

Replying to a debate on the Bill, Puri said the privatisation was done through competitive bidding process. He reminded the Congress that Delhi and Mumbai airports account for 33 per cent of air traffic and earnings.

“The six airports that were awarded in 2018 together account for only nine per cent of traffic and earnings,” he added.

And on the six airports being given to one entity he said, when Delhi and Mumbai airports were privatised all subsequent efforts at privatisation contained a stipulation that prior experience was necessary,” he added.

“So, we fell into a trap of our own making and not by this government and I don’t want to make it as a political point. But unless you had previous experience, which means unless you had earlier done Delhi or Mumbai, you could not participate in the process, which meant for 15 years no competitive open bidding could take place,” Puri said.

‘Part of a scam’

Earlier, initiating the debate Congress general secretary KC Venugopal said, in the name of development of airport infrastructure, the government is selling off the airports to the Adani Group.

He claimed, “There is an intentional attempt from the government to do nepotism to help their crony capitalist friends. The government is laying red carpet for monopolisation of airports in the country. Till now, Adani group won bids to operate and manage six airports.” Giving all airports to a single group is part of a scam. He said the Group is about to take over 74 per cent shares of Mumbai airport too. He demanded a probe into such deals.

Expert feedback

Jagannarayan Padmanabhan, Director & Practice Leader – Transport & Logistics Crisil Infrastructure Advisory, said, “as India integrates with the global aviation ecosystem it is important that we have the governance structure of international standards, this amendment helps to bring that into being and defines their role.”

According to Vinamra Longani, Head of Operations, Sarin & Co, once the Bill is notified “it will have little change on the day-to-day working of DGCA, BCAS and AAIB as even though they will now be statutory bodies, the Central government will have over riding powers.”

However, it ensurea that India complies with the recommendations of the recent audit of the International Civil aviation Organisation.

Published on September 15, 2020

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