Friday, Aug 19, 2022

'Air India Has To Be Closed Down If Not Privatised', Says Govt

The government is readying the bid document to sell off its entire stake in the national carrier.

An Air India flight. File Photo

The state-owned carrier Air India will be shut down if it is not privatised, the government said in Rajya Sabha on Wednesday.

"Your airlines would have to be closed down, unless not privatised," Minister of Civil Aviation Hardeep Singh Puri said in Rajya Sabha in a reply to issues raised by AITC member Shantanu Sen.

The government is readying the bid document to sell off its entire stake in the national carrier and has set March 31 as the deadline for completing the disinvestment process.

In an earlier attempt, the Modi government had in May 2018 tried to sell 26 per cent of its stake in Air India but not a single private party showed interest in the first stage of bidding.

The top aviation ministry officials and Air India Chief Ashwani Lohani are currently meeting the potential investors before launching the bid process.

"Last time the government was holding 26 per cent stakes in Air India but now things have changed...and it seems that buyers will come forward to make an offer for Air India, the flag carrier airline of India," Puri said in an interview to IANS.

However, Puri said the government would protect the interests of Air India employees and there would be no job loss till its privatisation.

"Issues being related to current employees, their health cover, how many would remain and what would happen, we are committed to secure a favourable deal for all employees. I would go to that extent," he said.

The minister said 25 per cent salaries of various employees were withheld when Air India was in financial crisis.

"There is full intention that before the privatisation or disinvestment is completed, this 25 per cent would be reimbursed to all employees in all segments," he said.

Asked by a member in the Rajya Sabha if pilots had been leaving the airline in the wake of privatization, Puri replied in the negative.

(With inputs from agencies)