Against the backdrop of divestment plan of Air India doing the rounds following the Centre’s nod, the national carrier has no clue “officially” about the proposed stake sale. Almost a month after the Union Cabinet decision, the carrier has in a RTI reply has said it “does not have any information in this (proposed privatisation) regard.”
The nominated Central Nodal Officer of Air India (AI) SK Bajaj who is also the AGM (Operations), in his reply dated July 11, 2017 mentioned that AI has not made any communication to any other officers nor has it received any communication from any of the departments in respect of the proposed disinvestment of Air India. “It has no information to provide,” Bajaj said.
Lucknow based RTI activist Dr Nutan Thakur had requested Air India to provide the documents related with its proposed disinvestment, including those exchanged between Air India and different offices. “It is truly strange that a Government owned company whose privatisation is being planned and seems to be n process has been totally kept out of the loop,” said Nutan when contacted.
Based on the Niti Aayog recommendations on disinvestment of Air India and five of its subsidiaries, the Union Cabinet last month gave in-principle approval to the Civil Aviation Ministry’s proposal to the divest plan.
Civil Aviation Ministry sources said that while none of the AI officials including Chairman Managing Director (CMD) Ashwani Lohani have any written communication yet pertaining to the issue that has generated a national debate, a “formal” decision from Air India could be sought once the recommendations of the group of ministers is approved by the Cabinet. Air India has a debt of Rs 52,000 crore, of which Rs 20,000 crore is aircraft-related and Rs 32,000 crore is working-capital based.
Barely a week later the Centre’s big divestment announcement, the national carrier spread its wings for a non-stop flight to Washington from New Delhi while services to Stockholm and Copehangen amongst the various other international destinations planned are scheduled during the next few months.
Whereas the Centre is working on the road map for a feasible and acceptable privatization, the national carrier’s profit making subsidiaries like Air India Express (AIE) Limited and Air India Transport Services Limited (AIATSL) are on an expansion mode. The profit-making AIE led by Shyam Sundar on Sunday announced to prepare a 10-year vision document to expand its fleet to more foreign destinations after posting a profit of Rs 296.7 crore in 2016-17. The vision document is being prepared by international consulting firms KPMG and ICF.The other profit making arm AIATSL led by CEO Ashwini Kumar Sharma is also extending its services to foreign airports to begin with Nepal after successfully handling ground services for carriers lie AI, Emirates, Singapore Airlines, Thai Airways, China Eastern etc at Indian Airports.
Another subsidiary – Air India Engineering Services Limited (AIESL) led by CEO HR Jaganathan have been successful in bringing several airliners including the Indian Air Force (IAF) under its MRO’s (Maintenance, Repair Overhaul) stations to service their flights and now has set up a base at Sharjah to attract business in the region.