Updated: January 23, 2022 7:56:13 am
Various government departments and ministries had pending payments amounting to Rs 278.49 crore to Air India, according to RTI information from the loss-laden national carrier which is being sold off to the Tata group.
According to Air India’s reply to a Right to Information (RTI) application filed by Commodore Lokesh K Batra (Retd) on January 20, 2022, the dues are under multiple heads and estimated to have been pending up to October last year. The government has already stopped booking through credit facilities by its departments on Air India ahead of the disinvestment.
This pending amount includes Rs 244.78 crore from over 700 government departments and sections as of September 2021 and Rs 33.71 crore towards various VVIP flights as on July 27, 2021, as per the data. This also includes dues from the Prime Minister’s flights of Rs 7.20 crore and the President’s flight dues of Rs 6.14 crore. The last audit was done on October 7, 2021, Air India said.
The Ministry of External Affairs owes Rs 20.37 crore, the Ministry of Home Affairs owes Rs 7.20 crore and the Defence Ministry owes Rs 6.14 crore.
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When asked to provide financial year-wise data from FY16 onwards on the amount not recovered but book adjustments done from each such public authority, Air India said in the RTI reply, “as the disinvestment procedure is going on, the requested information will be provided later on.”
Among other dues, Lok Sabha, New Delhi, owes Rs 2.38 crore; Airport Authority of India around Rs 53 lakh; Under Secretary, Lok Sabha sect Rs 2.40 crore; Controller of Defence Accounts Rs 2.45 crore; Sr Executive Officer, Rajya Sabha sect Rs 4.91 crore; Ministry of External Affairs around Rs 5.2 crore; Lok Sabha sect, Rs 4.29 crore; Executive Officer, Lok Sabha sect Rs 18.15 crore; Dept of Post Rs 9.52 crore; Commissioner of Customs Rs 64.37 crore; Controller of Defence Accounts (Navy) Rs 16.84 crore; Indian Embassy Paris Rs 1.21 crore; and Indian Embassy Kathmandu Rs 1.19 crore.
Various sections in the Civil Aviation Department itself owe nearly Rs 5 crore to Air India, which is saddled with huge losses. According to the carrier, around 790 government departments and ministries owe money to it.
The outstanding from the Vice President’s flights was Rs 10.219 crore, evacuation flight dues were Rs 7.214 crore and foreign dignitaries Rs 2.94 crore. As per C&AG report 40 of 2016, as on March 31, 2016, the government had owed Air India Rs 513.27 crore towards VVIP and other chartered flights, including evacuation fights and maintenance of aircraft.
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With the process of disinvestment of Air India and Air India Express going on, Air India has stopped all credit facilities to government departments. “Therefore, all ministries/ departments are directed to clear Air India’s due immediately. Air tickers from Air India may be purchased in cash till further instructions,” the Department of Expenditure, Ministry of Finance, said in an office memorandum on October 27, 2021.
However, modifying the October order, the Expenditure Department issued another order on December 31, 2021, saying, “in all cases of air travel where the Government of India bears the cost of air passage, the officials concerned are to travel by Air India only and air tickets are to be purchased directly from Air India or by utilizing the services of the three Authorized Travel Agents viz. Balmer Lawrie & Company Ltd, Ashok Travels & Tours (ATT) and Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation.”
“To ensure timely payment of air ticket to the travel agents, to confirm the performance of journey, the employee has to submit a certificate/ undertaking in prescribed proforma within 7 days of completion of journey. TA bill may be submitted later as per the existing rules,” it said.
In October 2021, the government issued a letter of intent (LoI) confirming the sale of its 100 per cent stake in the loss-making Air India to Tata group for Rs 18,000 crore. The government had accepted an offer by Talace Pvt Ltd, a unit of the holding company of the group, to pay Rs 2,700 crore in cash and takeover Rs 15,300 crore of the airline’s debt. Air India’s accumulated losses of Rs 70,875 crore have led to the erosion of the net worth of the company.
Employees of Air India and Indian Airlines have come under the ambit of Employees’ Provident Fund Organization (EPFO) from January 1, 2022, with the Labour Ministry repealing the related legislation that allowed them to be part of the exempted trust so far.
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