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The great southern trick

How the state-owned Chennai airport, after a Rs. 2,000-crore makeover, is now getting ready for privatisation

If the state-run Airports Authority of India (AAI) has its way, Chennai airport will be on its way to a makeover by January 2014. The AAI in September announced its decision to privatise six Indian airports — Chennai, Kolkata, Lucknow, Guwahati, Jaipur and Ahmedabad — and has asked developers to send in requests for qualification by mid-October and place bids by December 18, a deadline many have decried as being insufficient for the level of planning required. But the privatisation move for Chennai has raised a stink since the Chennai airport was recently refurbished (quite shoddily at that) by the AAI at a ₹2,000-crore cost to taxpayers. If all goes as per plan, the airport will get a new domestic terminal, parallel taxi track, multi-level car park and a connection to the upcoming Metro rail, at an estimated ₹1,200 crore. The government’s decision to hand over the airport, which handles 13.5 million passengers annually, to private hands has not gone unopposed, though it remains to be seen which developers will be able to rush their bids in.