The Bharatiya Janata Party has alleged that the Centre was trying to use the strike in Air India to shut down the airline and held the Prime Minister’s Office responsible for the crisis.
“The present dispensation of Air India has nothing to do with the Civil Aviation Ministry. It is controlled by the secretariat of the PMO…The CMD of Air India directly reports to the PMO and the prime minister should explain why no specific measures are not taken to resolve the crisis,” BJP spokesman Rajiv Pratap Rudy said.
He said that Air India losses mounted from 2,200 crore in 2007-2008 to 16,000 crore in 2010-11, after the merger of Indian Airlines and Air India in 2007 and asked who was responsible for it. “Is it a well-planned conspiracy to shut down the airline or does the government want to privatise Air India,” Rudy asked.
The BJP spokesman said any government decision to declare a shutdown would only help meet the demand of pilots required by the private airlines. “Who benefits from it? The government is playing to the hands of private players by making pilots scapegoats” he alleged.
Rudy said several of Air India’s profitable routes had been handed over to private airlines, leading to drop in revenues of the carrier. Further, he said the aircraft at its disposal was not being fully utilised. Air India, which has the largest fleet in the country, operate an aircraft for about eight hours a day while private airlines fly an aircraft for nearly 16 hours a day. Rudy also said that Boeing 777 acquired by the airline has been kept in the bay for four months, causing enormous loss to the state exchequer.
Castigating Civil Aviation Minister Vayalar Ravi’s remarks dubbing pilots as a “bunch of 12th pass” persons who were demanding more money, Rudy said “former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was also a pilot. Is Ravi also referring to him as a 12th pass person?”
Meanwhile, the crisis-ridden AI has now curtailed its operations with limited flights till May 6. With the strike entering its fifth day, the carrier has also decided to put into use bigger, wide-bodied aircraft including jumbo jets for the already few domestic flights that it is currently operating. Nearly 90% of Air India’s flights have been cancelled for the day as the stalemate between the 800 striking pilots and the airline’s management continues with both sides refusing to budge from their respective stand. “We are continuing with our contingency plans and will be operating 40 domestic flights across the country today,” an Air India spokesperson said. Economic Times