Major Confrontation If Air India Sold, Warns RSS-Linked Labour Union

Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh had already taken a position to oppose all such suggestions and prescription put on the table by Niti Aayog.

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Niti Aayog has told the government that it should find a private buyer.


New Delhi:  The NDA government's plan to go for a strategic sale of ailing Air India is likely to face some turbulence. Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, or BMS, the trade union affiliated with the RSS has "warned" the government of a "major confrontation" if it goes ahead with policy think tank NITI Aayog's suggestion to exit the airline business.

"We have asked the government to stop such types of activities, initiatives of Niti Aayog otherwise in the coming days there will be a major confrontation with all stakeholders," Virjesh Updadhaya, the BMS' general secretary declared.

The BMS, he told NDTV, had already taken a position to oppose all such suggestions and prescription put on the table by Niti Aayog.

Niti Aayog has told the government that it should find a private buyer, write off 50 per cent of the airline's liabilities and transfer the remaining liability, mostly on account of loans taken to finance a controversial decision to buy aircrafts, to the new owner.

If the government does find a buyer for the airline, it can also offer them the rights to commercially develop prime real estate and user rights for a certain period.

Last week, Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju had spoken about the airline's "legacy debts" and told NDTV that privatisation was also an option being considered by the government.

"At the moment we are considering all options. Things can't continue the way they are, we cannot afford to. The Maharaja which had resplendent days, is now impoverished," Mr Raju said during a discussion on the eve of the PM Narendra Modi government's three years of rule.

When he was asked if a decision on the future of the state-run airline would be taken before the next anniversary, the minister hinted the decision could be just round the corner. "I don't think we have that much time," he said.

He was less forthcoming on Wednesday. "All courses of action are being examined by us to ensure this. Right now, we cannot disclose beyond this point. We have not closed any option," Mr Raju told reporters.

The NDA government has blamed decisions taken by the previous UPA regime for much of the financial mess that the Air India is in; its debts run in excess of 50,000 crores.

In December 2005, the UPA cabinet approved for the national carrier to buy 68 aircraft from Boeing Co. A year later, Indian Airlines signed up for 43 planes from Airbus SE. The two national carriers were later merged in 2007 to operate under the brand Air India.

The CBI has already moved in. Among the cases that the agency is probing include investigating allegations that buying planes for 70,000 crores or $10.8 billion had caused a financial loss to the "already stressed" national carrier.


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