NEW DELHI: The government is yet to take a final decision on how much stake in Air India it wants to sell, Minister for Civil Aviation Ashok Gajapathi Raju said on Wednesday. The statement assumes significance as earlier this month, his junior Jayant Sinha, had said that more than 51 per cent of Air India’s ownership will be transferred to the private sector.
“There is no final decision... there are lots of suggestions and there is lots of thinking. (Some suggest) why not have a share (in Air India) so that if market goes up you can recover (debt). I say you are welcome to suggest,” Raju said at a press interaction.
Responding to queries on why the government is privatising the national carrier, the minister said Air India is a good airline but its finances are bad. “Unless its management is professionalised and decision-making processes are not cumbersome... Chances of survival are low... We don’t want it (Air India) to go the way a lot of airlines have gone, because if it shuts down, nobody benefits,” he said. Last year, the Union Cabinet approved privatisation of the debt-laden national carrier, which is staying afloat on taxpayers’ money.
The Ministry of Civil Aviation may also call for fresh bids for the disinvestment of state-owned helicopter operator Pawan Hans.
Raju said that at the recently organised bidding of Pawan Hans, only one entity qualified as a bidder. Whether there would be fresh bidding, Raju said, “Single bid scenario might not be the correct thing. All options are open.”
A senior official in the ministry said fresh bids are the only option left because according to rules, an entity can’t be disinvested with just one bid.