NEW DELHI: The government moved an inch closer to privatisation of Air India by holding the first high-level meeting over the issue on Friday. A Group of Ministers (GoM) appointed by the Union Cabinet to look into disinvestment of the debt-ridden carrier held the meeting in which Air India’s Chairman and Managing Director Ashwani Lohani was also present.
Sources privy to the developments told Express that the modalities of disinvestment of the airline were discussed at length in the meeting, which lasted for three hours. The GoM discussed the fate of Air India’s nearly 24,000 employees and examined the possibility of hiving off non-core assets of the airline, including real estate, land parcels and art treasures, into a separate company before the government calls a formal bid for the airline.
Industry experts said such a process was likely to expedite the process of disinvestment, as locating and registering Air India’s vast land pool and real estate would have taken much longer. In the meeting, the GoM also examined the option of giving voluntary buyouts to a segment of its employees, sources said.
Pertinently, ever since the government has given the in-principle approval for considering strategic disinvestment of Air India and its five subsidiaries, the employees have been protesting against the government’s decision.
The privatisation of Air India is set to bring about a major change in the work life of its employees and there is a lot of uncertainty about the future of airlines’ employees.