New Delhi: At a time when the Centre is pondering over a multi-crore bailout package for Air India reeling under acute financial crisis, the discussion over the functioning of the public sector airlines has gathered momentum.

Despite lackadaisical attitude of its officials, the Aviation Ministry is equally responsible for the battered condition of flag carrier airline of the country.

Moreover, the attitude of other Ministries cannot be termed satisfactory as they despite taking the services of the airlines for movement of VVIPs are yet to clear their pending dues.

Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report on the Air India clearly states that if the free travelling facilities of Ministries and Departments officials are not checked, the bailout package will fall flat.
Commenting on the Aviation Ministry’s attitude towards Air India, CAG has maintained, “The Ministry had issued a directive in March 2010.”

As per the direction, the free travelling facilities of business class had been given to all the former secretaries of Aviation Ministry. Earlier, the staffs of Air India and Indian Airlines had enjoyed this privilege.

The CAG demanded the letter related to this order but the Ministry failed to provide the same.

After that the auditing body had recommended that unless the battered condition of the Air India is improved, the free travelling facilities of all the officials in business class/first class be stopped.

The Aviation Ministry should ensure that the payment of VVIP travels is made in a time bound manner. In addition, if other Ministries fail to pay the dues, the Aviation Ministry should bear the cost of travelling.
Air India had debt of Rs 42, 570 crore and accumulated losses of Rs 22, 000 crore as of 31 March 2011. The carrier has asked for Rs 6, 600 crore as an immediate equity infusion from the Government to stay afloat. It wants a total equity support of Rs 42, 920 crore till 2021.

JPN/Bureau