Government handing Air India over to foreign players, says Congress, CPI(M)

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New Delhi | Updated: Jan 10, 2018 10:40 PM

The Congress and the CPI(M) today strongly opposed the government's decision to allow 49 per cent FDI in the civil aviation sector and accused it of handing Air India over to foreign players.

The Congress and the CPI(M) today strongly opposed the government’s decision to allow 49 per cent FDI in the civil aviation sector. (Image: Reuters)

The Congress and the CPI(M) today strongly opposed the government’s decision to allow 49 per cent FDI in the civil aviation sector and accused it of handing Air India over to foreign players. Senior Congress leader Anand Sharma asked the government to come clear on whether Air India’s assets worth lakhs of crores of rupees would be given to foreign players. He said the previous UPA government had relaxed FDI norms for foreign players but had kept Air India out of its ambit because of its status as the national carrier. “The government should be careful in allowing FDI in Air India, which is a national carrier. It should not do anything in stealth,” Sharma said. The former Union minister said the carrier had assets worth lakhs of crores of rupees and had a large number of route permits as a result of bilateral agreements and these would be greatly affected by the government’s decision.

“The government should clarify whether the ownership and control of Air India would be handed over to foreign players and whether its assets would also be handed over, as well as on the monetisation of routes,” he said. Sharma said the UPA government had consciously kept Air India out of the purview of FDI when it allowed 49 per cent FDI in the civil aviation sector. Saying that the party would examine the government’s decision, he sought answers from it on how its policy would affect the national carrier.

The CPI(M) also opposed the decision and accused the government of moving towards handing Air India over to a foreign airline. “The politburo of the CPI(M) strongly opposes the decision to allow foreign airlines to invest up to 49 per cent in Air India,” it said in a statement. “Having taken the decision to privatise Air India, the Modi government is now moving towards handing (it) over … to a foreign airline,” the party said.

The Left party advised the government to pay heed to the recommendations of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture that had asked it to review its decision on the privatisation of Air India. The CPI(M) also criticised the decision of the Cabinet to allow 100 per cent FDI through the automatic route in single-brand retail trade. “Though FDI up to 49 per cent was permitted under the automatic route (till now), this decision to liberalise FDI in retail trade will have harmful consequences for domestic retail traders and shopkeepers,” it said.

The government today allowed foreign airlines to own up to 49 per cent stake in national carrier Air India at a time when the process for the strategic disinvestment of the debt-laden airline is on. While allowing foreign investors, including foreign airlines, to have a stake in Air India, the government also made it clear that the national carrier’s substantial ownership would remain with an Indian national.

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