Ministry will process Niti Aayog report on Air India sale: Jaitley

Xavier Trudeau
Juin 2, 2017

The Niti Aayog has given its recommendations on the government disinvesting stake in Air India to the Civil Aviation Ministry, which will take a decision on the matter, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said on Thursday.

According to sources here, the Niti Aayog in a recent report has recommended strategic disinvestment from the loss-making Air India, by which government control would be transferred to a private owner. Following this, the civil aviation ministry said it was looking at all possible alternatives to make the airline viable.

Since the merger of Indian Airlines with itself, Air India has been in the red.

Air India has been surviving on a Rs 30,000 crore bail- out package spread over 10 years announced by the Manmohan Singh government in 2012. Niti Aayog has suggested that the public money that its annual losses take up could be diverted instead to health and education. At this stage, we are considering all options and we can not say as to what will be the final decision."It will possibly take about three months to decide broadly how to proceed, which way to go, and so on", Choubey told reporters.

The Air India had been in the green till 2007 and made a profit of around Rs 100 crores in 2015-16 on account of low jet fuel costs and increase in passenger footfall. "Civil Aviation has to explore all the possibilities as to how the privatisation of Air India can be done", Jaitley said earlier in the day.

A senior official said Air India has been bleeding due to huge debt overhang and if a solution can be reached on restructuring the debt that would be helpful."Debt restructuring would be one important component of the process", the official said, adding that Air India has been talking to banks for the last 4-5 months.

Discussions on disinvestment of Air India have gathered pace at a time when the CBI has registered three FIRs and a preliminary enquiry (PE) to go into the controversial decisions made by the erstwhile UPA government with regard to Air India, including surrender of profitable routes to favour private airlines, its merger with Indian Airlines and purchase of 111 aircraft.

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