Friday, August 19, 2011


It is simply mind-boggling – the manner in which the GMR group is allowed to get away with anything. Just recently – on August 7, 2011 – the 'most modern and sophisticated' T3 terminal of Delhi Airport that is being run by a consortium led by GMR, went on the blink for more than 5 hours due to a power failure. Sure, there were allegedly enough back-up generators to take care of the blip. But for some strange reason; the back-up failed and thousands of passengers were left literally groping in the dark in the wee hours of that Sunday morning.

Put this in the context of a story that was broken by the news channel Headlines Today in late July. The channel used hidden cameras to actually demonstrate how the construction of five star hotels and malls in a 'hospitality' zone called Aerocity at Delhi Airport by GMR is a grave security threat. The news report stated in its headline: 'Delhi Airport a sitting duck for terror attacks'. Top officials of Delhi Police told Headlines Today that no security clearance had been given for the Aerocity. And yet, the GMR-led consortium brazenly continues to construct the same. It defies logic: how well connected can the GMR group be that none seems to be putting a stop to a project that could actually jeopardise the lives of airline passengers and thousands working at the airport?

Then consider this: just a few days ago, Member of Parliament K. N. Balagopal requested the Prime Minister in the Rajya Sabha to ensure that the Rs.15 oddbillion "illegally" collected by the GMR-led consortium as development charges be taken back. Regulators and authorities have long ago decreed that the exorbitant charges collected by GMR are illegal. And yet, no steps have been taken to take the money back. Of course, in early August, the business daily Financial Express carried a story stating that the GMR-led consortium had defaulted on interest payments on loans taken for the project for the third consecutive month. I am compelled to repeat my question: how well connected is the GMR group?

There is more. The media has stated that the GMR consortium is spinning off 11 joint ventures that will look at the 'non-core' aspects of the airport like food, hospitality, retail, cargo services and so on. The consortium is obliged to share 46% of its revenues with the Airports Authority of India. But much revenue will be swallowed up by the joint ventures, with AAI ending up the loser. It has also been pointed out repeatedly that these joint ventures will again fleece passengers by fixing or hiking 'charges'. Nothing; no action has been taken against GMR on this front too!

Has GMR been punished? Far from it. It was recently awarded a Rs.55 billion contract to improve the 555 km highway linking Kishangarh and Jaipur with Ahmedabad. By doing this: the message that is going out very loudly and very clearly, is that you can violate every norm, every rule; you can cheat and fleece passengers; you can even put their lives in jeopardy. But if you are well-connected like the GMR group surely must be, you will be rewarded rather than punished for your follies!

If this is not crony capitalism, what is?



  1. Sir,

    If charges are not high at Airports,
    Airports become like Mumbai Local Train Stations.

    It is a difficult gestation for infrastructure companies.

    Surely people are in a soup where such large amount of monies are spent.

    And are the other corporates less powerful and influential.

    The Indian public seem to have a power center in them too.

    People have power up to dangerous proportions and use it in their day to day operations.

    Surely its a tough askance to run a large and diversified secular democracy like India.

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