AI to set up committee to work on turnaround plan: Praful Patel

AI to set up committee to work on turnaround plan: Praful Patel

However, Patel also warned that the management would be "free to take stern action" if any section of the agitators did not resume work forthwith.

"We are thankful and happy that the pilots have called off their agitation .... the Air India CMD (Arvind Jadhav) will be shortly forming a committee," Patel told reporters soon after the pilots' agitation was called off.

He said the Ministry stood by the AI management's order of September 27 which announced the formation of this Committee on the turnaround plan. "It will also include representatives of the Civil Aviation Ministry," he added.

Expressing hope that normalcy of operations would be resumed by this evening or early tomorrow, Patel said "the passengers of Air India and the finances of Air India should not suffer". All sections of employees should cooperate to see that the national carrier's "reputation is regained immediately and confidence restored."

He said the government was extending "fullest support" to Air India by deciding to infuse equity and converting high cost debt to low-cost. "But government support comes with riders and these are difficult times for airlines, not only in India, but all over the world."

Opposing any "unilateral action" by the management, Patel said "government will ensure that the management and all sections of the employees sit together and exchange views" on the problems being faced by the national carrier.

The Minister said the agitating pilots also felt there were various ways to achieve cost reduction and enhance revenues for the airline.

Maintaining that government's desire was to ensure improvement in Air India's financial health through the turnaround programme, Patel said he had briefed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee on the proposals to support Air India in this regard.

Asked about unconfirmed reports that a section of pilots still wanted to continue their agitation, he said "we have set a deadline and I hope everybody adheres to it. If not, the management is free to take stern action."

He said salaries and productivity-linked incentives for July have already been disbursed to the pilots and those for August would be paid soon. "There is no reason for any section of employees to be unhappy."

Patel said he was very concerned that the entire civil aviation sector, both in India and abroad, was going through a downturn and added that "every section of employees must behave responsibly."

"The avenues of employment are not available globally. In India, the employment scenario (in the sector) is much better as the spirit here is not anti-employee," Patel said in response to questions.