Guwahati: Amid widespread protests, the Adani Guwahati International Airport Limited (AGIAL) on Friday took over the management, development, and operation of the Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International (LGBI) Airport in Guwahati, the second international airport in the northeast after Imphal, officials said.
Airports Authority of India (AAI) officials said that the LGBI Airport was on Friday formally handed over to AGIAL led by business tycoon Gautam Adani in a restricted ceremony.
Airport director Ramesh Kumar handed over a symbolic key to Utpal Baruah, who has been appointed Chief Airport Officer by the AGIAL.
The AAI tweeted: "Adani Guwahati International Airport Ltd (AGIAL) today took over operations, management, and development of AAI's Guwahati airport through PPP mode for a lease period of 50 years."
The Adani Group tweeted: "We are delighted to announce that the Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport is now a 'Gateway To Goodness'. We are privileged to be at your service and welcome all passengers to our airport in Guwahati."
The opposition Congress, local party Assam Jatiya Parishad, and AAI employees' unions have been protesting against the handing over of the airport to the private party.
During the March-April elections to the Assam assembly, the issue had dominated political campaigns.
Hundreds of people from various walks of life had earlier launched a signature campaign demanding the cancellation of the leasing out of the vital airport to the private company.
AJP president Lurinjyoti Gogoi said that the LGBI Airport is one of the most profit-making airports in India and the government's claim of privatizing it for the benefit of the passengers is not justified.
On August 9, the AGIAL had begun its 'Observation Period' at the LGBI Airport as part of its mandate to develop and modernize northeast India's main airport.
In 2018, the Central government had leased out six AAI airports -- Guwahati, Ahmedabad, Jaipur, Lucknow, Thiruvananthapuram, and Mangaluru -- for operation, management, and development under the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) model.
The Adani Group had emerged as the successful bidder for all the six airports.
"The Centre took the decision to enhance the revenue of the AAI and augment the economic development in these areas in terms of job creation and related infrastructure," an AAI official told IANS.
Currently, there are 15 airports in the northeast region -- in Guwahati, Silchar, Dibrugarh, Jorhat, Tezpur, Lilalabari and Rupsi (Assam), Tezu and Pasighat (Arunachal Pradesh), Agartala (Tripura), Imphal (Manipur), Shillong (Meghalaya), Dimapur (Nagaland), Lengpui (Mizoram), and Pakyong (Sikkim).