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Security clearance holds up ground handling contracts

Ashwini Phadnis

Commenting on reports of a new airport coming up close to Delhi, Mr Narula said that this was highly unlikely as the rules did not allow another airport in the vicinity of 150 km of an existing airport.

NEW DELHI, Jan. 15

THE award of ground handling at nine airports has not been put on hold. The security clearance report on the bidders is awaited for the process to move forward, the officiating Chairman of Airports Authority of India (AAI), Mr S.K. Narula, has said.

``The process is not on hold. One of the conditions for award of the contract is that the bidders have security clearance. This is still awaited. AAI has written to the Ministry of Civil Aviation to expedite the matter with the Ministry of Home Affairs,'' Mr Narula told Business Line in an exclusive interview.

AAI officials said that the Government had given permission for leasing out ground handling services at nine airports, including those at the four metros and in Hyderabad, Bangalore and Goa.

However, there has been intense speculation that the Government has decided to call for fresh bids after one of the winning consortium ran into trouble about one of the partners employing former Pakistani Air Force (PAF) officials.

Officials of Dnata, the partners of the winning consortium which is said to employ PAF officials, had recently told Business Line that they had written to the Minister for Home Affairs clarifying the holding pattern of the company.

Meanwhile, AAI is to shortly call tenders for the running of duty-free shops at the major airports as one of the earlier successful bidders had backed out, AAI officials said.

Commenting on reports of a new airport coming up close to Delhi, Mr Narula said that this was highly unlikely as the rules did not allow another airport in the vicinity of 150 km of an existing airport.

Further, officials said that the Ministry of Civil Aviation was advising the Uttar Pradesh Government to have the airport at a new destination rather than at the site chosen earlier.

``The existing airport at Delhi is capable of handling the traffic projections for at least the next 20 years. So what is the need for another airport so close to Delhi?'' Mr Narula said.

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