TAKING a dig at Air India, the national carrier, Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju on June 9 said Air India's "books are so bad" that nobody will buy it even if the government wanted to sell off it. Ruling out disinvestment of Air India that has a debt of some Rs. 50,000 crore, Raju at the same time made it plain that the taxpayers' money cannot be committed "for eternity".
"It’s (Air India) books are so bad. I don't think that...even if it is offered, anybody would come for it," he said.
Air India is in the red due to mounting debts and tough business conditions since the merger of then Air India and Indian Airlines in 2007 and is staying afloat on a Rs. 30,000-crore bailout package extended by the UPA government.
He said the carrier needs to function in a more cohesive manner to deliver on its turnaround goals.
"It is a nice airline. I like Air India but I can't commit taxpayers' money for eternity. That is not done," Raju was quoted as telling PTI.
Excited by better financial condition and high growth potential of the domestic aviation market, Air India is putting in plans to expand its fleet by another 100 aircraft in the next four years.
"My feeling is that the cohesiveness of the team has to increase and where they have worked as a team, they have delivered, and where they have not worked as a team, they have pulled in different sides. Nobody can put the clock back. The quicker they realise it the better," the minister noted.
Though there has been no official announcement so far, the airline has managed to post an operational profit of around Rs. 6-8 crore in the previous financial year.
"The fact that they have not made an operating loss speaks volumes," Raju said.
He however expressed the hope that the national airline has the capability of flying high.
As per the latest Directorate General of Civil Aviation data, Air India ferried a total of 11.98 lakh passengers on its domestic network in April, cornering a market share of 15.1 per cent during this period.