The Communist Party of India (Marxist) on Tuesday moved a privilege notice against Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh in the Lok Sabha for his reported policy statements on Air India outside Parliament, when it is in session.

“We have tabled a privilege notice against the Aviation Minister and demanded that he explain why he made policy statements on the issue outside when Parliament is in session,” CPI(M) leader Basudeb Acharia told reporters.

Earlier in the day, MPs voiced their protest over the continuing strike by Air India pilots. Opposition members took on the Aviation Minister for his statements outside Parliament indicating privatisation of the national carrier. The Opposition wanted to know what the government was doing to resolve the eight-day impasse that saw the sacking of 71 pilots.

Speaker Meira Kumar adjourned the House when Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj and other members asked the Chair to direct the government to summon the Minister to the House.

Supporting the issue raised by the CPI(M), the Communist Party of India and the Janata Dal (United), Ms. Swaraj said the Minister's remarks to the media on policy matters amounted to breach of “propriety of the House and hence its privilege.”

She said that even when he had not replied to a discussion on Air India and the ongoing strike in the House, “he is making statements on policy matters outside.”

The Speaker said a discussion was scheduled and the Minister would respond to them at that time.

Raising the matter during zero hour, Mr. Acharia said the Minister was making statements “clearly indicating” privatisation of Air India. “The Minister's only motive is to discredit the national carrier and sell it because he has made it clear that the government will not take the responsibility to run the airline.”

Ananth Kumar and Shahnawaz Hussain (both BJP) and Sharad Yadav (JD-U), who also criticised the Minister for making policy statements through the media. They said Mr. Singh should be made to come to the House and clarify.

Gurudas Dasgupta (CPI) said the Minister was “speaking eloquently” in the electronic media, saying he was “against the merger, against [the country] having a national carrier and against the government running a service industry.”

As several Opposition members joined the Left and BJP to demand that the Minister be brought for clarification, the Speaker adjourned the House.

In the Rajya Sabha, the DMK wanted the government to consider the striking pilots demands and expressed concern over the suffering of passengers.

Raising the issue, Vasanthi Stanley (DMK) said the suffering of people due to the strike was increasing, as over 50 flights to the United States and Europe and other destinations had been cancelled ever since pilots suddenly reported sick. “The government, without any notice to the public, has cancelled international flights, causing great inconvenience to passengers.”

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