Sinha must recuse himself from AI’s disinvestment process: Swamy

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New Delhi, June 29 (IANS) BJP’s Subramanian Swamy on Thursday advised his party colleague and Union Minister Jayant Sinha to recuse himself from Air India’s disinvestment process due to a possible conflict of interest.

“I would like MoS (Minister of State) for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha to recuse himself from the process of Air India’s disinvestment as there is a conflict of interest,” BJP’s Rajya Sabha MP and a known economist Subramanian Swamy told IANS.

“He has in the past worked with foreign companies which might be hired to evaluate Air India’s assets or other companies which might be interested in buying a stake in the airline. He should recuse himself from this situation.”

Swamy’s comments come a day after the Union cabinet gave its in-principle approval for Air India’s divestment.

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The cabinet’s decision on Air India comes after NITI Aayog in a recent report to the Civil Aviation Ministry recommended strategic disinvestment in the loss-making Air India.

At present, the national passenger carrier has a debt burden of more than Rs 50,000 crore.

The flag carrier had got a new lease of life on April 12, 2012, when the previous UPA central government had approved a Rs 30,000 crore turnaround (TAP) and financial restructuring plans (FRP) package spanning up to the year 2021.

On AI’s disinvestment process Swamy said that the national passenger carrier’s overall assets should be considered by the government before coming to a final price.

“My first concern regarding Air India’s disinvestment is that a proper valuation of all its assets be taken into account before a final price is reached,” Swamy said.

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“Air India has massive collateral assets like flying rights to various countries, hangers and aerobridge facilities abroad and a well trained technical manpower. All these should be taken into account before a final value is reached.”

Currently, Air India’s portfolio of subsidiaries include Air India Engineering Services, Air India Transport Services, Alliance Air, Air India Express and the Hotel Corporation of India. It also has a ground handling joint venture AISATS.

Apart from its subsidiaries, the national carrier owns several properties in India and abroad, operational slots at international airports and priceless art works, besides well trained manpower.

According to the company’s website, Air India operates 118 aircraft of various kinds. Its international network consists of 41 destinations across the US, Europe, Australia, Far East and South East Asia and the Gulf.

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The airline’s domestic network covers 72 destinations, including far-flung areas of the North-East, Ladakh and Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

For 2015-16, AI had posted an operating profit of Rs 105 crore. For the last fiscal 2016-17, the company is expected to report an improved operating profit margin.

–IANS

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