The Civil Aviation Minister, Hardeep Singh Puri said on Tuesday said that due to the huge debt and losses on the national carrier Air India, the government has the choice of either privatizing it or shut it down.
While speaking at the Rajya Sabha the aviation minister said that regarding the privatization of the national carrier, if the government could help it, it would keep operating the airline.
With the debt of ₹60,000 crores, the choice is between privatization and closing down the airline, Puri further added.
“We are confident that Air India will be given to a new owner to keep the flag flying high,” he added.
On privatization of airports, puri said that the county’s busiest airports at Delhi and Mumbai account for 33% of traffic, while six airports awarded to the Adani Group account for just 9% of total traffic.
Puri further said that no competitive open bidding happened for airports during the last 15 years because of the prior experience clause. Under this clause airport operators needed to possess prior experience of operating an airport to bid.
“I am making a limited point, we are progressing from a limited number of players within the airport sector to expanding and opening it out to global entities,” he added.
Puri said that the Union government’s decision in August to hand over the international airport at Thiruvananthapuram to Adani Enterprises Ltd (AEL), which won operating rights in an auction, is generating a lot of heat from the government.
When the privatization process happened, the govt of Kerala, Niti Ayog, and an empowered group of secretaries had a discussion, during which it had been decided that if the Kerala government’s bid falls within the ten range of the winning bid, it might be awarded the airport, Puri said adding that the eventual gap between Kerala government and the winning bidder (Adani Group) was 19%.
The Kerala state assembly had last month unanimously passed a resolution against the 50-year contract to AEL, a move the Centre termed “regressive and far faraway from public opinion”.
Meanwhile, Puri also said that the govt won’t compromise on issues related to air safety.
During 2014, the average scheduled aircraft accidents for billion flights figure for India stood at 2.8 while the worldwide average was 3.06, Puri said adding that the same figure for India was 0.82 during 2019, while the global average stood at 3.02.
The Rajya Sabha passed the Aircraft (Amendment) Bill 2020, which was tabled by civil aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri, after an hour-long discussion.
The Aircraft (Amendment) Bill 2020, which has already been cleared by the Lok Sabha in March this year, seeks to convert aviation agencies just like the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), Bureau of Civil aviation security (BCAS), and Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB) into statutory bodies.
(With Inputs From Mint)