Days after the government decided to sell Air India, paintings worth Rs 200 crore from the airliner’s collection have reportedly gone missing from its Mumbai headquarters, according to a report by Times of India. The report said the stolen paintings were from renowned artists like MF Husain and Jatin Das. The matter came to light when Jatin Das was approached for a painting that he made for Air India for some verification purpose. News agency PTI reported that some of the paintings gifted by acclaimed artist Jatin Das to the national carrier “may have reached the open market”.
Reacting to the news, Union Minister Jayant Sinha on Wednesday said the government is looking closely into allegations of some of Air India’s paintings going missing. “We are monitoring the media reports very closely. Air India has been keeping quite meticulous records over the years and making sure that all of the inventory is properly accounted for,” the Minister of State for Civil Aviation told reporters on the sidelines of an event. On the other hand, Ashwani Lohani, the chairman and managing director of the airline, said an internal inquiry has been ordered into the matter.
Meanwhile, government’s decision to divest stake in Air India was discussed yesterday at a meeting of the Department-related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture. During the panel’s meeting, sources said the issue of Air India was raised by Congress member and former Minister of State for Civil Aviation K C Venugopal. On June 28, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs gave its in-principle approval for the disinvestment of Air India, which has been in the red for long.
Currently, Air India is under a debt of more than Rs 52,000 crore. The previous UPA government had extended bailout package worth little over Rs 30,000 crore to the national carrier for a ten-year period starting from 2012.