The recommendation of Niti Aayog to privatise Air India through “strategic disinvestment” is motivated by the private greed of the monopoly capitalists who control the Indian and global airline industry. Ministers and officials of the Government of India try to justify this decision by presenting various assertions, prejudices and so-called arguments, which are not convincing.
One of the recent attempts to justify the privatisation of Air India was the widely reported statements of the Junior Minister of Aviation, Shri Jayant Sinha. He is reported to have asserted that the private sector can run airlines business far better than the government. It is an assertion which is contradicted by numerous examples around the world, including the recent example of Kingfisher Airlines in our country. The public are being made to pay for the crimes of such private companies.
According to Shri Jayant Sinha himself, Air India has improved its performance quite dramatically in the past three years and is now making operating profit. He noted that Air India’s total debt stood at Rs. 51,890 crore at the end of September 2017; and the annual interest outgo on this debt is around Rs 5,000 crore. He conveniently avoided explaining why such a huge debt burden exists.
The employees of Air India have repeatedly pointed out that the enormous debt burden was created by a corrupt decision to purchase expensive aircraft carriers beyond the airline’s requirement, in the interest of American aircraft companies and corrupt Indian officials and ministers.
It is being rumoured that the plan is to split Air India into several companies and sell the profitable ones to private bidders. All these show that the primary motive is not to address the problems faced by the public but to fulfil the greed of the private interests keen to bid for the valuable public assets being sold.
The truth is that Air India can remain a public sector company and still improve its operational performance. It has already stopped making operational losses. So there is not really any public interest to be gained from selling the company to private bidders.
The only measure required to lift Air India out of its financial difficulties is to reduce the burden of the old debt, which is the result of a deliberate corrupt decision. Even under the privatisation plan, the government intends to waive some of this burden. If the same can be done without privatisation, Air India can start making profits after interest and tax.
So, Shri Sinha, why privatise Air India at all? Why not prune its debt burden, let it remain a public company and still regain its past glory?
There is no truth in your assertion that private companies can run airline business better. The workers of Air India do not accept it. It is not acceptable to the majority of people of the country either.
The truth is that there is no justification for the privatisation of Air India.