Mr Praful Patel
Hon’ble Union Minister for Civil Aviation
Government of India
May 13th 2008
Dear Mr Patel
Sub: Renegotiation of BIAL concession agreement
As you are aware, Bangalore City Connect Foundation, a multi-stakeholder platform of Bangalore’s citizens, filed a PIL in the Karnataka High Court, seeking the intervention of the court to keep the current HAL airport at Bangalore open, even after the new BIAL airport is inaugurated. Our arguments for this are driven by a variety of factors, including the significant issue of capacity constraints at the new airport, given the explosive growth of air traffic beyond original projections and the need to keep existing infrastructure available rather than being shut down.
The Karnataka High Court has directed that the parties to the original concession agreement should renegotiate their agreement so as to keep HAL airport open. This view has also been supported by the Supreme Court of India in its subsequent ruling.
Against the background of these two rulings, we at Bangalore City Connect were very confident that the parties involved would take sufficient due diligence to reach a consensus for a renegotiation, led by the Ministry of Civil Aviation, GoI. We are therefore extremely surprised and dismayed to find that after barely two meetings that were not even attended by all key participants, a hasty decision has been reached to close down the HAL airport and open the BIAL airport in the next few days. We also find that when we have asked for minutes of these deliberations, these “meetings” were not even minuted. This leads us to wonder about the nature of effort taken to renegotiate. It took several months for the original concession agreement to be reached, and barely a few hours to determine that no renegotiation was possible. We also find that the decision to open BIAL and shut down HAL on May 23rd, is being taken even before the parties present their findings to the High Court.
We find this cavalier attitude to such a brave matter extremely objectionable. It is not only a refutation of the directives of the Karnataka High Court and the Supreme Court, but also a repudiation of the sentiments of the citizens of Bangalore. We urge that this decision be immediately be changed, and that a rigorous process for renegotiation be established. This must include a detailed feedback of the views of all stakeholders, including HAL Airport and the airline operators. We also urge that an independent study be undertaken of the capacity of BIAL airport. These activities are critical inputs for any reasonable decision-making regarding renegotiations. We are very confident that both these activities can be undertaken within a period of a few weeks, and thereby not cause any undue delay to the opening of BIAL airport, especially when compared to the several months that have already been incurred. We wish to state clearly here that our position is not to delay the opening of BIAL, but rather to ensure that HAL is kept open at this time.
Sir, as you can see, we are extremely anguished at the decision taken yesterday on the matter of HAL airport, we urge you to display the right leadership in calling for an immediate meeting of all the parties concerned, and establishing a rigorous, transparent and equitable process for the renegotiation of the BIAL concession agreement. This will be the only way by which the public can be convinced that sufficient due diligence was taken to address this serious public issue in the city of Bangalore.
We are confident that our plea will fall on receptive ears, and look forward to your actions!
Bangalore City Connect
Bangalore City Connect
Mr Ashok Chawla, Secretary, Ministry of Civil Aviation, Government of India
Mr Sudhakar Rao, Chief Secretary, Government of Karnataka