Tuesday, October 02, 2018

Here is the 'real' reason Air India is not being privatised

The government seems inexplicably cruel to Air India.
Its grand plans of divesting the national carrier, which has been bleeding losses for decades now, failed to take off in May because no bidder turned up to buy it. One of the reasons was the huge debt Air India is saddled with — a portion of which the buyer was supposed to take over.
The airline is in dire straits — a few days ago, oil marketing companies (OMCs) asked it to start paying for jet fuel daily or face a supply cut, because it hasn’t cleared payments for almost one and a half years.
Yet, one of the biggest users of Air India is refusing to pay up — that user is the Government of India.

According to a reply received to an RTI query, the government owes Air India a whopping Rs 1146.86 crore. The biggest defaulter is the defence ministry, which has outstanding bills of Rs 211.17 crore, the cabinet secretariat and the PMO owe Air India Rs 543.18 crore, and the external affairs ministry Rs 392.33 crore.

Air India is the nation’s flag carrier. Being beholden to various national and international lenders and being pressured to pay up doesn’t do any favour to its, or the country’s image. Also, salaries of Air India employees have been delayed for the past six months. As recently as last week, the aviation ministry has written to the finance ministry asking for funds.

Earlier in September, according to a report, “Air India had sought Rs 500 crore through short-term borrowings to meet its working capital requirements. In July, the government had sought Parliament’s approval for Rs 980 crore in supplementary grants towards equity infusion in the national carrier. The amount is still awaited by the carrier.”
01/10/18 Daily O