The Airports Economic Regulatory Authority of India (Amendment) Bill, 2019

SHRI AMAR PATNAIK (ODISHA): Mr. Deputy Chairman, Sir, I thank you for giving me this opportunity. This Amendment to the Act, which has been brought in, had passed through a Standing Committee, when the Bill was initially introduced in 2007. I would like to refer to the Standing Committee's Report in 2008. One of the recommendations was "that the Committee does not find any valid reason to limit the role of AERA to these airports, that is when the limit was only 1.5 lakh million, and recommends that they should regulate all airports used for the operation of commercial flights irrespective of size and ownership." I would like to flag this particular aspect since we are talking about private and Government airports. So, ownership, or throughput of the passengers. This was the recommendation of the Standing Committee in 2008. Now, once this has been done, to pass an amendment at this stage to take more airports outside the regulatory regime, defies the real logic. The second aspect is, once you have certain number of airports under regulatory regime, and a large number outside the regulatory regime, you will have a differential structure. Now, when you have such a differential structure, does the Government think that in future, there will be another regulator to manage those airports which are outside the regulatory framework? For example, those who are coming, let us say, under the private sector. Now, I also have the CAG's Performance Audit Report on the DIAL. The DIAL introduced the bid document, but, did not talk about development fees. But, the DIAL charged the developmental fees and the Government subsequently sanctioned it. This was there in the Report. Now, if this could be done by the private operator, how do you regulate such kind of stuff? It is welcome. Since we are inviting private sector in a large scale into the airport sector, I think, it is a good step, but, there is a need for a regulator to ensure that the bid provisions need to be also monitored, and in case it is required, it should be revised. I understand the concern expressed by the hon. Member that once you have bid process, you can't really complicate it by putting it under a regulator. But, I am sure, it can be structured in such a manner, because you are giving a bid for thirty years, and in some cases, thirty plus thirty sixty years in case of DIAL. So, I am sure, it can be put under a regulatory regime. Otherwise, the Government, I am sure, will be faced with a situation of having different structures at different points of time. More importantly, how can you say that the conflict of interest will be addressed only in certain kind of airports and will remain in the other airports? The main object of the Act is that you will not have a conflict of interest between the Airports Authority of India and the regulator, which cannot act as both. Now, in this situation, when you are putting a certain number of airports under the regulator, you are leaving out a large number, who are still facing this conflict of interest, with the AAI. The third point that I would like to bring out is the definition of the aeronautical services under the OMDA. I think that should have been addressed because that was also indicated in the performance audit report. However, considering the fact that Bhubaneswar which is now under the 15 and 35 lakh airport annual traffic and might graduate into this particular coverage, I would like to draw the attention of the hon. Minister, through the Chairman, that hon. Chief Minister of Odisha had made a request that from Bhubaneswar to Dubai there should be a direct flight of Air India or some other airlines that would increase the traffic at Bhubaneswar and will come out of this regulatory regime. Thank you.