Air India will have to close if not privatised: Puri

Air India planes. (AFP file photo)

The Government will have to close down Air India, if it is not privatised, Union Minister for Civil Aviation Hardeep K Puri, said on Wednesday.

During question hour in Rajya Sabha, the Minister said while disinvestment, the government will protect the interest of all its employees.

He also said that the government has withheld the 25% salaries of employees working in different categories when the company was in financial crises. Before privatisation, the government will clear all its dues, he said.

While handing over to the private government will protect the interest of current employees including their health cover, he said.

Later speaking to media, the Minister said,“if Air India is not privatised, then from where the money would come for its functioning. Earlier, we used to go to finance ministry to make up the operating loss. We are not getting any money from the finance ministry, we have to go to banks.”

“Since Air India is first-class asset, selling now will attract bidders. If we take ideological positions that we don't want to sell it, then it would be difficult to run it in the future,” he said.

There are 11,000 contract employees and trained engineers working in the company and they would be asset to the company to private investors, he said.

The Minister also said the aviation sector requires around 100 more pilots every year and the government would upgrade its flying training academies to bridge the shortfall.

There are 32 Flying Training Organisations (FTOs) in the country, which train around 350 pilots every year.

"We are training around 350 pilots. We get some retired pilots from the Air Force and Navy personnel," he said.

Puri said, "We are in the process of upgrading our facilities so that instead of 350 or so pilots, we take this number by a few hundreds".

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