Union Minister of State for Civil Aviation Praful Patel on Saturday said the Centre would soon infuse an additional equity of Rs.800 crore into Air India.
Talking to journalists here on Saturday, he said the Group of Ministers, headed by Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, recently decided to release the amount to the cash-strapped national carrier.
However, Mr. Patel made it clear that the government would closely watch the monthly progress of the state-owned airline operator before considering requests for any further equity infusion.
The government’s support is conditional — Air India will cut its operating cost by Rs.2,000 crore by the end of the current financial year and enhance revenue to show visible recovery from the financial crisis.
Mr. Patel was here on the occasion of the inauguration of the country’s first aerospace precision engineering and manufacturing ecosystem — the QuEST Global Special Economic Zone, near Hattargi village on the Pune-Bangalore Express Highway, about 30 km from Belgaum city. The SEZ was inaugurated by Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa.
Mr. Patel said Air India, as part of its financial restructuring plan, had sought Rs.5,000 crore as additional equity infusion, which the United Progressive Alliance government had considered.
On pilots threatening to go on strike, the Minister said they (pilots) should support the turnaround in the aviation sector and realise that their support to the government was in their own interest. At the end of the day, he said, the strike would not only affect Air India, but also negate the ongoing process of turnaround.
On Abu Azmi incident
Mr. Patel, also senior leader of the Nationalist Congress Party, a partner in the Congress-led coalition government in Maharashtra, said the State government should deal with chauvinism with heavy hand.
The Minister said this in response to questions on the specific role of the State government on the Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navanirman Sena (MNS) members attacking Samajwadi Party MLA Abu Asim Azmi for taking the oath in Hindi and not Marathi, as was demanded by MNS.
Mr. Patel said the government needed to deal with anybody taking the law into their hands with a heavy hand. “India is one nation and there is place for everybody.”
“We cannot accept this as everybody has equal right to live and work with respect and dignity in his or her choicest place in his or her country,” he said.