M A I N   N E W S

Air India gets an overhaul
CMD Arvind Jadhav moved out; airline turnaround plan to roll out in 3 months
Vibha Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 12
The government has given Rohit Nandan, a joint secretary in the Civil Aviation Ministry, charge of the beleaguered national carrier Air India. He will be the airline’s Chairman-cum-Managing Director (CMD) for the next three years.

Nandan replaces Arvind Jadhav, who has been facing criticism for not being able to carry along the airline staff, thanks to his “autocratic” style of functioning. With the appointment of the 1982 batch IAS officer belonging to the UP cadre, the government hopes to begin on a clean slate with the warring factions of Air India employees, especially the pilots, who had been gunning for Jadhav.

As efforts to set the Air India house in order get rolling, sources said Jadhav’s ouster would be followed by significant changes in the functioning of the pauper Maharaja. The turnaround plan for the pauper Maharaja will roll out in the next three months and this time all decisions concerning the ailing carrier will be implemented under strict supervision of the ministry.

The airline is in deep red and has to pull out fast if it wants to survive in the highly competitive industry.

While there have been speculations that the government was contemplating privatising the airline, which has failed to take off despite all the taxpayers’ money pumped in, the Centre has ruled out the possibility and promised administrative and monetary steps to turn the cash-strapped airline around. Senior officials, however, admit that the fortunes of the national carrier has nosedived beyond the recovery stage.

Though Nandan will be given a free hand to revamp the AI management panel, he will be working in close coordination with the ministry and report directly to Civil Aviation Secretary Naseem Zaidi.

Civil Aviation Minister Vyalar Ravi, who met Manmohan Singh in Parliament House, announced that three new Directors would be inducted into the Air India Board soon for Personnel, Marketing and Finance departments. “A full-fledged board will be there with Executive Directors from the industry... everything will be streamlined,” Ravi said, adding, “we will do everything possible, look into every aspect and revive Air India as fast as we can.”

Significantly, the general practice so far has been that Civil Aviation ministers, including the high-profile Praful Patel who has been in the dock for all that has gone wrong with the airline, have preferred to steer clear of commenting on management issues of the cash-strapped airline, at least in public.

Patel has often been quoted as saying that he was not a minister for Air India and that it was the CMD who was responsible for its functioning.

Interestingly, recent developments have revealed that the CMD of the airline is not such a coveted job, especially in the present circumstances when the Opposition ire is directed towards it

Jadhav, who is understood to be very close to the PMO, was recently targeted by the BJP for being selected by the search committee despite having no “domain experience”. The Opposition even charged the PMO with “manipulatively subverting” the selection process to benefit Jadhav.

Jadhav not just failed to turn the airline’s fortunes around, he was also targeted by the all-powerful pilots' union for being responsible for most of its woes, including the failure to implement the AI-IA merger properly. He was also under fire for mishandling the pilots’ strike in May this year. His tenure in fact saw three major strikes by employees and pilots.

Centre says no to privatisation

The Centre has ruled out the possibility of privatising the airline. Senior officials admit that the fortunes of the national carrier have nosedived beyond the recovery stage.

Concerns before new chief

AI has a cumulative debt of Rs 40,000 crore, incurred over aircraft acquisition and as short-term loans to maintain its operations. The recent CAG report blamed the airline management for lack of foresight, saying that the decision to buy new aircraft proved a disaster.


Oppn walks out
Tribune News Service

New Delhi: The government’s assurances to the Lok Sabha today that it would turn around the loss-making national carrier Air India and would do so without privatising it fell flat as the Opposition staged a walkout over the issue, demanding action against all top authorities involved in AI’s decline.

The walkout led by the BJP and the CPI came at the end of nearly two hours of discussion around the dwindling passenger share and poor financial health of the airline.

The discussion, initiated by the CPI’s Gurudas Dasgupta, was taken forward by the BJP’s Murli Manohar Joshi.

Both questioned the government’s intentions behind allowing the carrier to slide by withdrawing 30 flights from profitable routes and purchasing planes when there was no capacity to repay. The political adversaries also came together to question the appointment of Arvind Jadhav, the now sacked CMD of AI who was rejected by a panel comprising a PMO nominee in 2009 but a year later was appointed as chief.

“What changed in a year?” both Dasgupta and Joshi asked, with the MoS in PMO V Narayanasamy unable to satisfy these specific queries, causing the Opposition supported by the SP and RJD to walkout. 





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