Delhi airport asks Centre for assistance in paying security bill

NEW DELHI: The GMR-led operator of the Delhi airport has told the government it would not be able to meet even the mandatory security expenses at India’s biggest aviation hub, and that New Delhi should instead finance the widening deficit in the dedicated corpus created for the purpose.

“Please note that as there is a severe shortage of funds and in case the deficit continues to build up… we shall not be able to meet even the mandatory expenditure to maintain the security of the airport,” the Delhi International Airport (DIAL) CEO I Prabhakar Rao wrote in a letter last week to CISF DG OP Singh. CISF runs airport security.

The cost of security is funded through the passenger service fee (PSF) of Rs 130 each departing passenger pays. The fund accumulated from the levy is used primarily to pay the salaries of the CISF personnel manning the airports.

Officials say that it costs more than Rs 1,300 crore to provide security at airports across the country, while the fund collected through PSF falls short by more than Rs 400 crore.

Of this shortfall, the state-owned Airports Authority of India has a deficit of Rs 150 crore a year, which it pays from its own corpus. Private airports, however, do not pay from their own corpus. Mumbai airport was surplus until the Terminal 2 began operations.

The aviation ministry does not want to burden passengers further and sources say that the government is in talks with the finance ministry to shift the cost of security at airports to the consolidated fund of India. If the cost head is moved to the consolidated fund, the government would finance the deficit directly.

“The aviation ministry is pursuing the matter with the finance minister, as this will cushion the passengers against an increase in fares on account of PSF,” said a ministry official, who did not want to be identified.

Rao’s August 2 letter to the CISF DG has also been marked to aviation secretary RN Choubey and other senior officials in the home and aviation ministries. His letter is a response to CISF DG Singh’s earlier note to Choubey that sought the latter’s intervention in getting CISF dues cleared, which was first reported by ETon August 2, 2017.

“A review of outstanding dues against various airports shows that an amount of Rs 735.33 crore is outstanding against 59 airports. Moreover, during the last 12 months, total dues have further increased from Rs 542.57 crore to Rs 753.33 crore. Out of the total pending dues of Rs 735.33 crore, an amount of Rs 655.40 crore relates to DIAL alone,” said Singh’s letter that was written in June.

DIAL had also clarified that the airport does not owe any money to CISF.

“It is unfair that DIAL is being projected as responsible for non-payment or delayed payment. The fact of the matter is that airport security is a sovereign function reserved for the government of India. Hence, it is the primary responsibility of the aviation ministry and government of India to ensure payment of CISF’s dues. Outstanding dues have built up over a period of time due to the shortage of funds in PSF,” Rao’s letter said.

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