An employees’ union of Air India today met NITI Aayog chairman Arvind Panagriya and demanded that the government waive the airline’s debt, instead of selling it to a private player. However, the move may have come a little too late as hours later the Union Cabinet gave its in-principle approval for the disinvestment of Air India. NITI Aayog, the government think tank, had earlier proposed privatisation of Air India because of its debt of Rs 52,000 crore. “We request you to waive Rs 30,000 crore and give the opportunity to Air India management to keep flying the flag of the national carrier,” according to a letter the Air India Employees’ Union submitted to Panagriya.
Expressing concerns about the uncertain fate of 25,000 employees of the airline, the union representatives have also demanded that if Air India is privatised, their salary dues should be cleared. The union members also highlighted that the airline had incurred huge losses because of “hasty decisions and wrong civil aviation policy of the Government of India” such as the purchase of 111 aircraft and surrendering of profitable routes to private carriers.
They also add that appointing retired employees on last- drawn salary has affected the airline adversely as well as recruiting sports personalities such as Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh and Harbhajan Singh cost the airline several crore rupees. Another employees union, Air Corporation Employees Union, is planning to seek an appointment with the Prime Minister’s Office. Seven unions of Air India employees had earlier warned the government of large-scale protests if the NITI Aayog proposal to privatise the national carrier was approved.