Nagpur airport handover postponed yet again

The modernisation of Nagpur airport seems stuck. The civil aviation ministry has once more put off handing over the airport to the Maharashtra Airport Development Company (MADC), which wants to develop a multi-modal international cargo hub at Nagpur (MIHAN).

Civil aviation minister Praful Patel is believed to have told the state government that the assets would be transferred only after the union cabinet gives its approval to the special purpose vehicle (SPV) formed between the MADC and the Airport Authority of India (AAI).

In the meantime, the ministry wants the MADC and the state government to complete the land acquisition process for MIHAN, as well as a special economic zone (SEZ) being developed as part of the project.

The civil aviation ministry's stand comes in the face of the Maharashtra government's spirited effort to get the AAI to hand over the airport. Chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh personally took the initiative to try and settle the issue.

The AAI has already delayed the transfer by around seven months. The very purpose of the meeting between the CM and the union aviation minister was to settle the issue once and for all, but that objective was not achieved.

While Patel promised that a proposal to get the SPV approved would soon be moved before the union cabinet, it seems unlikely that the AAI would transfer the assets even after the SPV is approved, since Patel was insistent on the land acquisition being completed, officials indicated.

The MADC is looking at acquiring around 4,300 hectares of land, of which some 937 acres of land belonging to the AAI. Last December, an SPV was formed between the MADC and the AAI to facilitate transfer of assets with a commitment from the AAI that the transfer would take place within six months. But that has not happened.