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Saturday, February 04, 2006

Dirty airports. Dirtier politics.

(am posting this post really late as am stuck with a neanderthal computer at my parents place since 2 weeks)

Flew in from Mumbai to Delhi on the first day of the AAI strike - Feb 1. It was afternoon - just a few hours into the no-working zone - and already the airports resembled a Bus adda: a pile of rubbish here and rubbish there and passengers sitting on steps, awaiting boarding, just before the gate.

Somehow the flights ran on time, more or less, but that hardly takes away from the disgust one feels at the attempted blackmail by the Unions and the communist parties.

That airports of India need an overhaul is a given. To think that AAI can manage the metamorphosis is a laugh. We've seen the level of service we've recieved from them all these years. And even if one were to consider their skills up to the challenge (HA!) the fact is that the government doesn't have the money to invest in such a huge poject. It hasn't had such money to put in its businss ventures for years!

The budget deficits year after year have meant a freeze on capital expenditure - is the reason why these assets and many others (like the thankfully sold off ITDC hotel properties) have been as musty and smelly and in an utter state of direpair as they have been. The airports need and deserve a bigger pocketed owner.

Moreover, the government has no business to run a business - particularly if the industry is established!

And lastly all this hullabaloo of selling ourselves to outsiders is absolute bullshit. One, the government has specified that the foreign partner in the winning consortium cannot have a shareholding greater than 49% (though mind you, they alone bear penalties for not meeting certain service standards). And two, Indian companies (which GVK and GMR both are, being Hyderabad based) are not 'outsiders'.

All that CPI wanted was some media space - which it got, and that is a fuck-all reason to screw the travellers. And it is a horrible face to put to the foreigners visiting the country. It is ugly. It is dirty.

Anyhow it is over.

And I for one, am glad to see the privatisation of the airports. Not that the process with which this government has managed the process is exemplary - it quite stinks with lack of transparency. Changing the criterion for winning bids is ridiculous. Also painful is the high-handedness with which the govt treats the prospective buyers - mostly unwilling to negotitate the process (which is why Singapore's Changi walked out). It's like when you go to Goa to the silver jewellery tibetan markets - they give you ridiculous prices, and the moment you bargain they look at you with comtempt and ask you to take it or leave it and they have a thousand (ignorant) potentials in line. Mostly I walk out of shops at this point because their demands are exhorbitant (and of course I can buy that stuff in Delhi).

The point being, arrogance doesn't sell well. Few may tolerate the nakhras, but you may lose the guy who could have put your asset to best use. And should another seller country come into the picture, then you would have no buyer at all, coz everyone would pack their bags and leave. We are not doing anyone a favour by leasing out the airports for privatisation - we are doing it coz we desperately need better services ourselves.

1 comment:

Gurdeepak said...

Politics...sure Alive and Kicking.