By Gaurav Tyagi
August 05, 2017: The ‘disinvestment’ decision of the government regarding Air-India is a long overdue, welcome step. This airline is a ‘white elephant’ and presently has a total debt of approximately more than Rs. 52,000 Crores.
Congress party initiated a vicious cycle of turning profit making industries into loss making units by nationalizing them.
JRD Tata established Tata Airlines in 1932, which was usurped by Nehru in the name of preposterous nationalization during November 1952.
Nehru government seized a perfectly working airline from the Tata group and converted it into a tax payer’s money guzzling behemoth known as Air-India. It’s high time to correct this historical blunder.
The author had a brief working stint with Air-India at the I.G.I Airport, New Delhi and is a personal witness to the lack of professionalism and rudeness prevalent in this so called ‘national carrier of India’.
Employees at Air-India coined the following phrases for internal usage amongst each other; ‘Act busy, take it easy and try not to do anything’; ‘We are not hard working but hardly working’.
These Air-India staffers enjoy numerous perks like free pick-ups and drops to the airport, highly subsidized meals; less than Rs. 5 for a plate of vegetarian or non-vegetarian food. All this is at the cost of the exchequer.
It is said that the first impression is the last impression. The majority of Air-India staff cannot even communicate properly in English with foreign visitors thereby, creating a very bad image of India.
The male staff of Air-India shamelessly gazes at the female employees of private/foreign airlines and women travelers. During the night shifts, many Air-India employees consume alcohol, while on duty.
At one point of time, the airlines had approximately 27,000 employees for its fleet of 122 aircrafts, earning it the dubious distinction of being an airline with the highest number of employees per aircraft in the world.
According to Captain Mohan Ranganathan, an aviation safety consultant; “It is a fact that they are over-staffed. Positions were created to please political bosses. Staff was not hired according to operational requirements. People were hired not for competence but for connections”
Why Indian taxpayer’s money should be frittered away on Air-India?
There is no logic in wasting huge amount of funds to maintain an organization which exists just to serve Indian elites.
The same money which disappears down this black hole, Air-India can be used to improve country’s infra-structure, roads and power supply.
This airline exists only to serve the politicians, its staff, government bureaucrats and their families. Air-India employees are just enjoying the security of government job. Members of Parliament get free business class tickets throughout the year.
Air-India distorts the market for fares since the management knows politicians will always bail it out. That’s why it gets away with inefficiency and poor customer service.
Government pumps in a massive amount of funds to keep this worthless airlines running. The undue favoritism shown by previous governments towards Air-India has resulted in Billions of Rupees going down the drain.
During the previous UPA regime, Air-India and Indian Airlines were merged. Profitable and lucrative Gulf routes were sold to private carriers.
Purchase of a large number of aircraft by loss incurring Air-India during UPA government was done just to receive commissions and kickbacks in the deal.
In the period from 2004-2014; India’s aviation ministers were known corrupt crooks like Praful Patel and Ajit Singh. They both milked Air India dry as coalition partners of Congress.
The government of India must not retain any stake in this ailing, contemptible organization. No Indian company should be allowed to bid for Air-India because, if this happens then the Indian firm would take heavy loans from various Indian banks to finance their purchase. This will result in the creation of another ‘Vijay Mallya’ wherein, any future potential Indian buyer of Air-India could easily default on his bank loans and run away to settle in a foreign country after a couple of years.
Air India employees are discourteous deadwood. The organization has no work culture. They strongly resist privatization fearing their subsequent layoffs for ‘non-performance’ through their employee Unions.
In the case of any Indian company buying Air-India, the business group would be subjected to heavy pressure from politicians.
This political interference will not result in concrete, positive changes at Air-India therefore, no Indian organization should be allowed to participate in the disinvestment deal of Air-India.
The best option is to sell off this airline to a Middle Eastern Sovereign Fund from Qatar, Dubai etc.
The overfed, incompetent work-force of the airlines has enjoyed for a long time at the expense of Indian tax payers. It’s high time, they realize there are no ‘free lunches’ in this world.
Prime Minister Modi would be doing the nation a great favor through 100% government disinvestment in this obsolete Air-India.
The author is a Master Degree holder in International Tourism & Leisure Studies from Netherlands and is based in China.