Parliamentary Panel Questions Stakeholders On Air India Divestment

A parliamentary panel on Tuesday questioned stakeholders over disinvestment in Air India and Pawan Hans, and raised concerns over job security of the employees.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism, and Culture on Tuesday met officials from the Civil Aviation Ministry and Department of Investment and Public Asset Management (DIPAM).

Civil Aviation Secretary R.N. Choubey, Air India CMD Ashwani Lohani, and Pawan Hans CMD B.P. Sharma were among those who were questioned by the panel headed by Trinamool Congress MP Mukul Roy.

A member of the panel told IANS the members questioned the officials about the need for disinvestment in the national carrier and possible job losses which may occur.

“We were told that the disinvestment is being carried out as per NITI Aayog recommendations,” the member said.
The member, however, added “NITI Aayog has said the government has no business of running business. By that logic, the government should not even run Doordarshan.”

On the job cut aspect, the members were assured that government would ensure settlements.
According to another member, the panel was told that the debts of Air India will be settled before disinvestment.

The members were also informed that the process for disinvestment in both Air India and Pawan Hans has already started.

The Aviation Secretary also informed the panel about the CBI investigation that is on in the merger of Air India and Indian Airlines.

A ministerial group has been formed to look into the modalities of national passenger carrier Air India’s divestment.

The decision was based on NITI Aayog’s recent report to the Civil Aviation Ministry recommending strategic disinvestment in the loss-making national career.

The airline in 2015-16 had posted an operating profit of Rs 105 crore. For the last fiscal (2016-17), the company is expected to report an improved operating profit margin.

The flag carrier had got a new lease of life on April 12, 2012, when the then UPA government had approved a Rs 30,000 crore turnaround (TAP) and financial restructuring plans (FRP) package spanning up to the year 2021.

After the cabinet’s in-principle approval for Air India’s divestment, budget passenger airline IndiGo expressed its interest in participating in the stake sale.

On July 18, Air India Chairman and Managing Director Ashwani Lohani, in a letter to the airline employees, said the government’s decision to consider AI’s divestment stemmed from the fact that the airline is unable to service its “huge accumulated debt of over Rs 50,000 crore”.

The government has already decided to sell its entire 51 per cent stake in Pawan Hans Ltd (PHL), in which the rest 49 per cent holding is with ONGC.

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