Task cut for Ajit Singh as new Aviation Minister
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Last Updated: Sunday, December 18, 2011, 17:54
New Delhi: New Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh has his task cut out for reviving a beleaguered aviation sector, burdened by high costs and huge financial losses, with the industry expecting some concrete steps by government in the near future to face this precarious situation.

With the revival of Air India kept high on government's agenda and a Group of Ministers likely to decide soon on infusing additional equity in the cash-strapped national carrier, Singh would have to follow the roadmap already set by the government to bring the company out of the financial rut.

Premier private carrier Kingfisher Airlines is also seeking government help in meeting the demands of the state-run oil firms for clearance of dues and talking to banks, including public sector ones, to lower its interest cost.

Similar demands are also being made by other private carriers, including the no-frills ones.

The issue of allowing foreign airlines to pick up equity in Indian carriers is also a major demand of a section of the industry, which Singh would have to follow up on, industry sources said.

They said the RLD leader, who has been given the Cabinet rank, would have a seemingly free hand to deal with the problems faced by the airlines and other stakeholders and improve the health of the entire sector.

He would be able to give a direction and thrust to major issues affecting the sector, they felt.

The 72-year old RLD leader took over from Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi who had been given Civil Aviation Ministry as an additional charge.

Among other issues is the running tussle between airlines and private run airports on charges collected by the latter.

Though the issue is being dealt with on a case-by-case basis by the Airports Economic Regulatory Authority, the sources said the government would have to lay down broad guidelines on the matter.

A major initiative is also expected of the Ministry on HR and related issues in the backdrop of simmering disgruntlement among various sections of employees over delayed salary and allowance payment by Air India and Kingfisher.

Air India has in the recent past witnessed strikes by pilots which had crippled its flight schedules for several days at a stretch.

HR issues like those concerning career progression and seniority have also come up in Air India following the merger of the two airlines.

Trouble is also brewing in the Airports Authority of India over moves to separate divisions concerning air traffic control and air navigation services.


First Published: Sunday, December 18, 2011, 17:54

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