PAC members examine Air India turnaround plan

RSTV Bureau

Some members of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) opposed the proposed disinvestment of Air India, saying that the national carrier is now performing “relatively better.”

The committee, headed by senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge,  interacted with officials from the Civil Aviation Ministry and Air India on the airline’s turnaround plan.

Congress leader in Lok Sabha, Mallikarjun Kharge.

Congress leader in Lok Sabha, Mallikarjun Kharge.

Sources said some of the members opposed the proposed divestment of Air India and sought an explanation from the ministry on the decision.

Members wanted to know the reason for such a decision when the airline, which is receiving money under turnaround plan, is doing “relatively better”, sources added.

Some members wanted to know about the bailout money pumped in when the airline goes for divestment and the interest burden, they said.

Civil Aviation Secretary R N Choubey, among other officials, was present at the meeting.

Approved by the previous UPA regime in 2012, the turnaround plan provides for equity infusion of Rs 30,231 crore up to 2021 into Air India subject to the carrier achieving certain milestones.

As part of the plan, various steps have been taken to cut costs and losses. These include route rationalisation and enhanced utilisation of new fleet.

The panel today took oral evidence from representatives of Civil Aviation Ministry and Air India on ‘Turnaround Plan and Financial Restructuring Plan of Air India Ltd based on C&AG Report’ that was released in 2016, as per its schedule.

As part of efforts to revive the loss-making Air India, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) gave its in- principle approval for strategic disinvestment of the airline in June.

A group of ministers, headed by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, is working on the modalities of the divestment.

Sources said the PAC would also be asking officials from Niti Aayog, Cabinet Secretariat, and Finance Ministry to appear before it on the Air India matter. PAC has 20 members, including those from the Congress and the BJP.