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Praful Patel says he feels sorry for sacked Jet staff

Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel said he would hold talks with all airlines to find a way out of the downturn in the industry.

Sympathising with the sacked Jet Airways employees, Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel on Thursday said he would hold talks with all airlines to find a way out of the downturn in the industry caused by high fuel costs and economic slowdown.

“I sympathize with those young boys and girls who lost their jobs. I will talk to all airlines to see that such large scale loss of jobs does not happen and try to find a way out,” he said here.

“At a personal level and also at the government level, I will tell the airline to accommodate as many people as possible,” he said in a reply to question of Jet decision to sack 1,900 employees yesterday.

Patel said the sacking of Jet Airways employees was a labour issue and there were other departments and agencies in the government to deal with the issue.

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However, he said there would be no retrenchment in Air India.

Patel maintained that the decision by individual airlines were being taken as they were facing a major financial crisis, primarily due to high fuel price.

“This has been happening in the airlines industry the world over. I have seen it in Australia, it is happening in the US, Europe and Asia,” he said.

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Patel’s comments came in the backdrop of International Air Transport Association data that almost 30 carriers worldwide have folded up in the last six months and an estimated 170,000 jobs lost.

“Until and unless the industry remains healthy, how can you protect jobs… if you have to create jobs, protect jobs, then you also need to take care of the health of the industry,” he said.

Asked about the ‘bailout package’ being sought Indian carriers, Patel said: “The word bailout is wrong. It means giving money. I can’t write a cheque to the private airline although it has happened in the US.”

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He, however, said immediate steps were required to rationalise taxes to help the industry come out of the losses.

“We (government) are supposed to be a calibrating agent and not a bailout agent,” Patel said.

He said the Civil Aviation Ministry had already recommended several steps like asking the oil companies to reduce the base price of ATF, reduction in central excise and customs levy, reduction in state sales taxes as well as cut in landing, parking and route navigation charges.

“We will also ask the banks to provide credit and give some leeway to the airline industry during this period of crisis. Otherwise, the airlines will go deeper into the red. So, we have to break that cycle once,” he said.

Asked whether Jet-Kingfisher tie-up could lead to cartelisation, he said: “If there is a cartel, but I don’t see one, we would come down very strongly… we will never allow cartelisation under any circumstances.”

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“The Civil Aviation Ministry, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation have all the powers to check such cartelisation or monopoly. There is also the Competition Commission. We will be very watchful on the Jet-Kingfisher alliance,” he said.

He maintained that Air India and other low cost carriers were capable of taking on competition.

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“Ultimately in the government, the system should understand that the aviation industry as a whole is facing a crisis. I am sorry that I have not been able to meet with success” in convincing the other wings of the government on this issue, he said.

First published on: 16-10-2008 at 01:15:48 pm
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