Even as the government desperately tries to sell debt-laden Air India, union minister Piyush Goyal on Thursday said that a well-managed and efficient airline is nothing short of a goldmine. "If I were not minister today, I would be bidding for Air India," union commerce and industry minister Piyush Goyal also told CNBC TV-18. Air India's losses currently stand at around Rs 80,000 crore. A few days back, civil aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri asked the disinvestment-bound national carrier to set up an internal mechanism committee comprising members from the management and its various trade unions to sort out privatisation-related issues of employees, news agency PTI recently reported citing unidentified sources. Earlier in 2018, the Modi government proposed to offload 76 per cent in the debt-struck national carrier, while retaining 24 percent with it. However, it didn’t get any bidders for the same.
On January 7, a group of ministers headed by union home Minister Amit Shah approved the draft EoI and Share Purchase Agreement (SPA) for the disinvestment of Air India. At his first meeting with the unions on January 2, 2020, he had said that privatisation was inevitable and cooperation of the employees was necessary for carrying out the exercise.
Meanwhile, air passenger growth grew to double-digit for the first time since January 2019 in November 2019. "Indian airlines experienced a return to double-digit growth for the first time since January 2019, as traffic rose 11.3% compared to November 2018," IATA said in a recent report. The government is struggling to divest stakes in Air India and BPCL to meet it ambitious divestment target of more than Rs 1 lakh crore for the ongoing fiscal.