Opposition serves privilege notice on Ajit Singh

Opposition serves privilege notice on Ajit Singh

Members want sacked pilots reinstated

The Opposition on Tuesday served a notice for a privilege motion against Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh in the Lok Sabha for stating policy matters outside Parliament when the House was in session.

The notice was served by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Janata Dal (United) and Left parties.

“We have tabled a notice of privilege against the Civil Aviation Minister in the House and demanded that he come and explain why he made policy statements on the issue outside when Parliament is in session,” CPM leader Basudeb Acharia said.

Singh on Tuesday had told a news channel that the merger of Air India and Indian Airlines did not progress as planned. “First, we have to put Air India on right track, make it viable,” he had said, replying to a question if government was planning to privatise the national carrier.

This led to a massive uproar in the Lok Sabha which forced Speaker Meira Kumar to adjourn the House before the lunch recess.

Raising the issue during Zero Hour, members of the BJP,  JD (U) and Left parties demanded an immediate reply from the minister, who was then not present in the House.  

“He (Singh) made a statement saying that merger had not worked. He said that there should not be a national carrier. Please understand the implications. He is against merger, he is against national carrier, and he is against the government entering the service sector. It is a policy decision. He is not competent to take a decision. The Cabinet has to take a decision,” CPI leader Gurudas Dasgupta said.  

It is the privilege of the House that when it is in Session, any important policy statement has to be made on its floor, he added.

Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj endorsed the views expressed by Dasgupta, saying that the questions raised by the CPI leader were a matter of “point of order and proprietary”.

“The (Civil Aviation) Minister is giving statements to television channels on a matter which is being discussed in Parliament and his (Minister’s) reply is yet to come. This is a matter of privilege,” she underlined.

BJP members Ananth Kumar, Shahnawaz Hussain and JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav also criticised the minister. They took objection to the absence of Singh, demanding the Lok Sabha Speaker to make Singh come to the House and clarify.

“We have seen in the past a move to privatise Indian Airlines and Air India before their merger. Now without addressing the problems of the national carrier, a public sector undertaking, the minister’s only motive is to discredit the national carrier and to sell it. He has made it very clear that the government will not take the responsibility of running Air India,” Acharya charged. The Opposition members also expressed concern over the ongoing strike of Air India pilots, demanding reinstatement of 71 pilots who have been sacked. They also demanded initiation of negotiations with the pilot’s union.

Get back to work, govt tells pilots

NEW DELHI, PTI: Adopting a carrot and stick policy, the Central Government on Tuesday appealed to agitating Air India pilots to return to work on the promise that no vindictive action would be taken, but also reminded them that passengers came first.

“Strike is not an answer to solve your grievances ... Come for talks unconditionally ... please get back to work,” Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh made an appeal to the pilots while replying to a debate in the Lok Sabha on the civil aviation sector and Air India.

Noting that the eight-day-old stir had cost the “almost bankrupt” airline Rs 150 crore and its credibility had been dented, he said “Air India management will not be vindictive towards any employee ... a lot of young people have just joined (as pilots). But the first priority should be that passengers are not inconvenienced.” The minister remained silent on the fate of the 71 sacked pilots. Members across party lines wanted an immediate end to the pilots' agitation and expressed concern at the health of Air India, while questioning the decision of merging the two erstwhile state-run carriers -- Air India and Indian Airlines.

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