Task cut for Ajit Singh as new Aviation Minister

Ajit Singh has his task cut out for reviving a beleaguered aviation sector, burdened by high costs and huge financial losses.

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

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.


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