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All options open for making Air India viable: Raju

Statesman News Service | New Delhi |

All possible alternatives are being considered to make Air India viable,  Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju said here on Tuesday.

Raju asserted that there is no point in mulling over the harm done by the merger of Air India and Indian Airlines as "the clock cannot be put back".

Days after Finance Minister Arun Jaitley pitched for Air India's disinvestment, Raju said all options are open for the airline. “NITI Aayog has made recommendations for making Air India strong and viable. All courses of action are being examined. We have not closed any option,” Raju said during a press briefing on three years achievement of the Ministry of Civil Aviation under the NDA government.

Asserting that the government is proud of Air India, Raju said the ministry would cooperate with the CBI in respect of cases related to alleged irregularities at the airline in the past.

Air India, which is surviving on a Rs 30,000 crore bailout package spread over 10 years announced by the Manmohan Singh government in 2012, is working on ways to improve its financial position. In 2015-16, the airline posted operational profit of Rs 105 crore on account of low fuel prices and increased passenger numbers.

Minister of State for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha said whatever would be done for Air India would be in national interest. “We are considering all possible alternatives (for Air India)…We are discussing what can be the winning strategy for the airline,” Sinha said.

Asked about the Air India and Indian Airlines merger in 2007, which is seen as a reason for the problems of the national carrier, Raju said the clock cannot be turned back on the deal.

The CBI has decided to probe the controversial merger besides alleged irregularities in purchase and lease of aircraft by the two state-run carriers under the UPA government which caused “huge” losses to the exchequer.

The probe agency has registered three FIRs and a preliminary enquiry (PE) to go into the controversial decisions made by the erstwhile UPA government with regard to the carriers, including surrender of profitable routes to favour private airlines.

The CAG had in 2011 questioned the rationale behind the government's decision to order 111 airplanes for AI and Indian Airlines ~ 48 from Airbus and 68 from Boeing ~ for about Rs.70,000 crore in 2006.