By Nirbhay Kumar
New Delhi, Jan 7 (IANS) Selling national carrier Air India to private players is anti-national and the disinvestment cannot be justified given the losses incurred by the state-run airline, senior CPI leader and Rajya Sabha member Binoy Viswam said.
A vocal critic of the Modi government and its economic policies, Viswam said that government needs to find out the reasons for the airline’s losses instead of putting it on the block.
He vowed to oppose the government’s privatisation overdrive in the upcoming budget session of Parliament that is expected to begin in the last week of January.
“Any Indian citizen with national pride will oppose it. I wonder why BJP, which always talks of nationalism from the rooftop, is selling the national assets like Air India and BPCL. All of them are now on sale. They (government) are looking at foreign capital also for the sale to go through. They are rolling out the red carpet for foreigners to come and occupy Indian playing ground,” he told IANS.
“The Left will not allow this. We will oppose it,” Viswam added.
The government has decided to sell Air India lock, stock and barrel by the end of current financial year and may come out with preliminary information memorandum (PIM) inviting expression of interest (EoI) from private players in the current month.
“We are in the process of completing the work for inviting EoI. We should be able to do it shortly,” said a top Aviation Ministry official.
Cash-starved Air India has stayed afloat on massive bail-out package cleared by the UPA-II government in 2012. While fund infusion was linked to operational and financial performance, the airline has barely improved its position. Stating that government would prefer putting in public money into social sector, the Modi 1.0 government started the sale process, but failed with not even a singly private player showing interest.
In the second attempt, the government has decided to sweeten the deal for successful disinvestment.
CPI MP Viswam is, however, not convinced with the reasons put forward by the government for Air India’s sale. On the perennial loss posted by the airline, the Left MP said that the government needed to find the reasons for it noting the reasons were not at the bottom but at the top.
“What they are doing is that in the name of loss-making they want to kill the prestigious and established Air India which has great brand name all over the world,” he said.
A Ministerial panel headed by Home Minister Amit Shah is tasked to finalise the contours of Air India sale. In its first meeting, the panel had decided to sell the entire 100 per cent government holding in the airline to private companies instead of 76 per cent in the previous attempt.
(Nirbhay Kumar can be contacted at [email protected])