Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Transparency before AI sell-off

Expectedly, controversy over the disinvestment of the national carrier Air India has broken out. BJP MP Subramanian Swamy called it “potentially another scam in the making” and has threatened to file a private criminal complaint. The Trinamool Congress’ Mamata Banerjee too accused the government of trying to “sell the jewel of our nation”. The contours of the disinvestment proposal are still in the making.

The government intends to divest up to 76 per cent with a 49 per cent cap on foreign holding. Jayant Sinha, junior minister for aviation, wants the airline to be split into four parts—with the aircraft and crew and foreign slots separated from ground handling operations—to make it easier to offer 51 per cent controlling stake in each of these entities.
The AI has an accumulated debt of over `48,000 crore and is losing to competition by the day. The government intent not to support a dying concern with public funds is understandable; but shouldn’t there be official analysis of why a ‘jewel’ created by J R D Tata has reached this point of no-return? Some have red-flagged the regime of V Thulasidas, who took charge as Air India CMD in 2003. Former UPA aviation minister Praful Patel has been blamed for favouring Jet Airways and other Gulf carriers at the expense of Air India. And then there are questions on why a reasonably okay Air India was merged with poorly performing domestic Indian Airlines that sealed the fate of both.
04/04/18 New Indian Express