Will decide on Tata’s suggestion at right time: Minister

New Delhi, Feb 22 (IANS) The government welcomes Tata Sons chairman emeritus Ratan Tata’s suggestion to waive the 5/20 rule allowing overseas flights by Indian carriers only if they have five years experience and 20 aircraft but will take a call on such issues at the appropriate time, Minister of State for Civil Aviation Mahesh Sharma said on Monday.

“We salute him (Tata). As an Indian citizen, he has given a suggestion. We welcome his suggestion. We will try to take a call on his suggestion,” Sharma, who is also the tourism minister, told reporters at an event here to launch a mobile app of the tourism ministry.

“We as a government are here to address and take call on such issues which come from various stakeholders and well wishers. The government will take a call at the right time,” he said.

In a tweet on Sunday, Tata had favoured waiver of the 5/20 rule, and charges older airlines were seeking it be retained but budget carrier SpiceJet chairman Ajay Singh had joined issue, opposing his demand.

“It is sad to see incumbent (old) airlines lobbying for protection and preferential treatment for themselves against the new airlines, which have been formed in full compliance with prevailing government policy and providing air transport to Indian citizens in line with the dream of ‘New India’,” tweeted Tata.

In rebuttal, Ajay Singh said: “All of us were asked to serve our great country before we got profitable rights to fly abroad. We served with great pride. What is wrong if these two foreign-controlled airlines are also asked to serve India before being allowed to fly international?”

Tata Sons-funded full-fledged airline Vistara with nine planes and budget carrier AirAsia India with six aircraft are opposed to the 5/20 rule, as they both are less than two years old and hence not eligible to operate international flights.

Vistara is a joint venture with Singapore Airlines, while AirAsia India is a tri venture with Air Asia Berhard of Malaysia and Arun Bhatia’s Telstra.

Tate’s observations came at a time when the Narendra Modi government is seized of the contentious issue on the civil aviation ministry’s draft policy and response it got from stakeholders in the sunrise sector.

Singh however maintained: “Tata, whom we respect greatly, should in fact urge these airlines in which his group is a shareholder, to serve India willingly before being allowed to fly international.” He claimed that Vistara and AirAsia India undertook to follow the 5/20 rule before obtaining a licence though they were opposing it now.

Tata’s tweet follows a representation by the Federation of Indian Airlines (FIA) comprising Jet Airways, SpiceJet, IndiGo and GoAir to Minister of State in the PMO Jitendra Singh on retaining the 5/20 norm, auctioning of additional seats to foreign carriers among other issues.

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