Airports lease issue: Puri asks Rahul if he stands for or against development

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New Delhi, Nov 2 (PTI) Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri on Monday hit back at Rahul Gandhi over his criticism of the leasing of airports to a private player, asking the Congress leader if he stands for or against development.

Puri also reminded Gandhi that the Congress-led UPA government had privatised Delhi and Mumbai airports.

The government-run Airports Authority of India (AAI) had on October 30 midnight and November 1 midnight handed over the Mangaluru airport and the Lucknow airport, respectively, to the Adani group on lease for 50 years.

Gandhi on Monday posted the screenshots of news about these two airports' handover and said: 'Development is taking place, but only a few capitalist 'friends'.' In response, Puri said: 'Are you in favour of development or against it? The UPA government privatized Delhi and Mumbai airports.

'Your 'friends' in Kerala had similarly made noise in the case of Thiruvananthapuram airport without thinking. Are you thinking and then speaking? We can discuss development whenever you want.' Puri said 33 percent of the passengers flying in the country use Delhi and Mumbai airports.

'The recently leased 6 airports use only 10% of passengers. I think it is better to think carefully before saying anything,' the minister said.

The central government privatised six major airports -- Lucknow, Ahmedabad, Jaipur, Mangaluru, Thiruvananthapuram, and Guwahati -- in February 2019. After a competitive bidding process, the Adani group won the rights to run all of them for 50 years.

The AAI had signed concession agreements with the Adani group on February 14 this year for operations, management and development of the Mangaluru, Lucknow and Ahmedabad airports.

On October 22, the AAI said in a press release that the Adani group would be taking over the airports at Mangaluru, Lucknow and Ahmedabad by October 31, November 2 and November 11, respectively.

The concession agreements for the other three airports -- Jaipur, Guwahati and Thiruvananthapuram -- were signed between both the parties in September this year. PTI DSP RT RT