AI: BJP smells scam, demands reply from PM

Pointing out that Air India losses have mounted after the merger of the domestic and international airliners, BJP wondered whether the present state of affairs in the airlines was a ploy to shut it down.

New Delhi: Suspecting a "bigger scam" in Air
India operations, BJP on Sunday demanded that Prime Minister
Manmohan Singh pin responsibility for the alleged
mismanagement in the running of the national carrier.

Pointing out that Air India losses have mounted after the
merger of the domestic and international airliners, BJP
spokesman Rajiv Pratap Rudy wondered whether the present state
of affairs in the airlines was a ploy to shut it down.

Rudy wondered whether the government was trying to cover
up a bigger scam in Air India by targeting pilots.

He said the airlines had on earlier occasions blamed the
global financial crisis, rise in fuel prices and increasing
competition for the its mounting losses.

"We have now heard the government and the present
management blaming pilots for its losses," he said here.

"The Prime Minister must be frank enough to find out and
tell the nation as to who is responsible for all this," Rudy,
a former civil aviation minister, said.

He claimed that pilots belonging to Indian Airlines were
under-utilised in the merged entity -- NACIL -- and any
government decision to declare a shutdown would only help meet
the demand of pilots required by the private airlines.

Rudy said he had reasons to believe the PMO was deeply
involved in running the airline and wanted to know as to who
was responsible for the merger of Air India and Indian
Airlines and its subsequent failure.

He said over the years Air India had developed several
profitable routes which were handed over to private airlines,
an action which has led to drop in revenues.

Rudy said the national carrier was not fully utilising the
aircraft it has at its disposal. He said Air India, which has
the largest fleet in the country, operates an aircraft for
about eight hours every day where as private airlines operate
an aircraft for nearly 16 hours every day.

He claimed the Boeing 777 aircraft acquired by Air India
were kept in the bays for four months causing enormous loss to
the state exchequer.

"Is it a well-planned conspiracy to shut down the airline
or does the government want to privatise Air India," he asked.

He said the government had time and again made efforts to
bail out Air India but such attempts have not been fruitful.

"What happened to the Rs 2000 crore given by the exchequer
to Air India," he asked.

Rudy also attacked Civil Aviation Minister Vayalar Ravi
for dubbing pilots as a "bunch of 12th pass" persons who were
demanding more money.

"Former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was also a pilot. Is
Ravi also referring to him as a 12th pass person," he
wondered.

Rudy said he expected Congress President Sonia Gandhi to
respond to Ravi`s remarks.

PTI

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