A parliamentary panel today heard the views of the government on the decision to sell stake in Air India and Pawan Hans, with some committee members flagging concerns about debt burden and job security at the airline. Senior officials from the civil aviation ministry and Department of Investment and Public Asset Management (DIPAM), were present at the meeting. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture, chaired by TMC MP Mukul Roy, had called the meeting to hear the views on the divestment of Air India and Pawan Hans. During the meeting, which went on for a little over one- and-a-half hours, some members raised concerns about the future of employees, post divestment of Air India and Pawan Hans. Civil Aviation Secretary R N Choubey, Air India CMD Ashwani Lohani and Pawan Hans CMD B P Sharma, among others, were present. Both Air India and Pawan Hans, which provides helicopter services, come under the civil aviation ministry. According to a member of the panel, the government officials said formalities for disinvestment of Air India are being worked out even as he claimed that there was no specific response to queries about jobs.
Another member said the issues of jobs and large debt burden of the airline were flagged. Air India has a debt burden of more than Rs 52,000 crore and is staying afloat on taxpayers’ money. The previous UPA regime had extended a bailout package worth a little over Rs 30,000 crore to the national carrier for 10 years starting from 2012. A group of ministers headed by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley is looking into various aspects of the proposed Air India disinvestment after the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) gave its in-principle nod in June. The government has already decided to sell its entire 51 per cent stake in Pawan Hans Ltd (PHL), in which the rest 49 per cent holding is with ONGC. The employees’ unions at both Air India and Pawan Hans are opposed to the privatisation of the two companies.