India To Modernize 35 Airports

India's cabinet on June 8 cleared a proposal to upgrade airports at 35 major cities at a cost of nearly $1.7 billion, Aviation Minister Praful Patel said. The overhaul of the airports in New Delhi and the western economic hub of Mumbai has already been approved and contracts have been handed over to two private consortia at an estimated combined cost of around 54 billion rupees (US$1.24 billion).

The state-run Airports Authority of India (AAI) will take charge of overhauling the facilities in the country's second-tier cities in partnership with private companies. Patel said work was likely to begin next year and be completed by 2009 in three phases.

Among the airports to be upgraded are those in the tourist cities of Goa, Jaipur, Amritsar, the Taj Mahal town of Agra and western Ahmedabad and northern Lucknow cities. But the busy airports in the main cities of Chennai in India's south and Kolkata in the east, were not on the list due in part to objections over privatization. Patel said airports in the two cities will also be upgraded after consultations with the state governments.

The government's decision to press ahead with privatization of Delhi and Mumbai airports met with stiff resistance from airport workers and the communist allies of the Congress party-led government.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2006

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