Air India returned to the Tata Group after nearly 70 years yesterday. The salt-to-steel conglomerate won the bid to take over Air India in October, after years of struggle by the government to privatise the airline.
"Air India had no chance if the disinvestment process did not go through. It was bleeding cash and we needed to be accountable to taxpayers," Union Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia told NDTV in an exclusive interview.
The government, he said, could no longer sustain Air India. "There is a staggering loss and the burden was on the taxpayer. That is just not right. Then this deal came through. This is a win-win transaction and Air India is now back with its erstwhile owners and I am certain that under their stewardship Air India has a bright future ahead," he said.
He called it a landmark transaction under which all debt had been taken care of and "everyone is a winner".
The government formally handed over the airline to the Tata Group at a ceremony held in Delhi.
Will Air India no longer be India's national airline?
"I think Air India was, is, India's national airline, and always will be. It will be India's national airline in your heart. It will be India's national airline in my heart. It will be India's national airline in every Indian citizen's heart," Mr Scindia said.
"And I am very confident that under the new management, with the Tatas, with their strategy, with the human resource impetus, with consumer focus, Air India will once again command both the domestic and international skies," added the minister.