Hyderabad: Virtually sounding a warning to the striking Air India pilots, Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh on Sunday said the government is not waiting for the pilots to return to work but making plans to move ahead.

Reminding the pilots and other employees that their survival was linked to Air India, he said that nobody is going to give anymore public money to the airline and "they will not survive for too long" if the company does not become competitive.
"We are not waiting. We are making plans. If you take the pilots trained in V-737 or Airbus 320, (in) three to six months they can be trained to fly these planes.

"So, in our plan for revival, when we implement Dharmadhikari report, we have to be very patient and firm at the same time.

"There will be many such hiccups on the way," he told reporters here on the sidelines of a book release function.

Contending that there are "no issues" to go on strike and the pilots were "ill", he said plans were afoot to induct and train more pilots.

He, however, said the government is ready to listen to the concerns of pilots once they return to work and address them seriously without being vindictive in any way.

"I don't understand why they are on strike to begin with. There are no issues. Whatever few issues they had, that’s what exactly Dharmadhikari report was meant to address.

"We have already started discussions. Secondly, they did not even give any notice. So, it is not strike.

"They are just not well. They are ill. So, they are basically keeping away from work," he said.

The minister said the High Court had directed the pilots to go back to firm. "It is illegal strike. I said even in Parliament that let them come back to work, we will listen to all their problems. Government will not be vindictive in any way.    So, it seems to me that they do not want to come back to work," he said.

Around 400 Air India pilots owing allegiance to Indian Pilots Guild(IPG) are on strike since May 7 and the services of 101 pilots have already been terminated.

Singh said the pilots and other employees need to understand that their survival depends on Air India's survival and pointed to demands that the airline should be shut down.

"We are already flying about 38 of the 45 destinations that we were flying earlier. Of course, they are making a business plan to induct more pilots or train more pilots," he said.

The minister said while Rs 30,000 crore have been allocated to make Air India viable, "it is not at one time. It is based on attaining certain performance standards.   

There are many milestones on the way. Government or anybody, nobody is going to give anymore public money to Air India."

"They have to become competitive with the rest of the industry. Otherwise, they will not survive for too long," he said.

"Their survival depends on Air India's survival. They have no money to pay the wages. They have not paid the airport authorities. They don’t pay the oil companies.     

As I said, many people in the government, more civil aviation experts and many people in the media want Air India to be sold off or shut down.

"Pilots or employees have to understand that. It is in their interest to revive Air India. That should be their first loyalty," he said.


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