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Minister Awhad,sir

Tough Ajit Singh is the mouse that squeaked. Give his job to the blackmailer-in-chief

Written by The Indian Express | Published: May 12, 2012 1:06 am

Tough Ajit Singh is the mouse that squeaked. Give his job to the blackmailer-in-chief

Lurking in the motto of the Indian Pilots’ Guild (IPG) — “non sibi sed omnibus”,not for oneself,but for all — may be a solution to Air India’s troubles. Since Jitendra Awhad,IPG chief,is already dictating terms,why not let him play a larger role,take over the civil aviation ministry? His counterpart in the Indian Commercial Pilots’ Association (ICPA) could be MoS,and the CMD of AI could serve them as civil aviation secretary. It would be the logical conclusion of the arduous efforts the government makes to keep AI top dog.

The last instalment of the government’s largesse to the “national carrier” was the Rs 30,000-crore bailout,euphemistically called a “restructuring package”. Its underlying assumption: that an airline with a Rs 44,000-crore debt burden,which had lost Rs 6,994 crore in FY 2010-11 and had yet perpetuated free and discounted tickets for the extended families of its staff,knows best what to do with the money. Till only the other day,the government had also reserved all lucrative routes for AI and preserved its right to first refusal on bilaterals,leaving only crumbs for eager private carriers. It didn’t matter that,say,75 per cent of flying rights on the profitable Middle East route remained unutilised,or that only 10 per cent of seat capacity was used for Europe. Even more,an FDI exception has been maintained for civil aviation,allowing 49 per cent FDI but preventing foreign airlines from holding equity in Indian carriers. So,the government can rest easy that,notwithstanding the CAG’s reprimand on its supposed unfairness to the “national carrier… a symbol of the state”,it has done everything possible to ensure a more than level playing field for AI,to say nothing of yielding every time the unions bullied and blackmailed.

Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh may still think he has talked tough but the only thing left for him to do now is hand over the keys to his ministry and step aside. Let cash-strapped airline bosses like Vijay Mallya and those who are not,like IndiGo’s Rahul Bhatia,all line up outside Awhad’s door. Since he is calling the shots,let him also take the responsibility.

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