Air India Chairman and Managing Director Ashwani Lohani has described the carrier’s Rs 50,000 crore debt as “insurmountable” and blamed the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government for the ruinous state of its finances.
Couple of months ago, Lohani had said that the biggest threat to Air India is not Jet Airways or IndiGo, but debt. “Remove that (debt) and we will beat everyone hollow.”
Air India, which has a formidable fleet of 140 planes, controls close to 15 per cent of the domestic market and enjoys the largest share (17 per cent) of international traffic into and out of India.
In a Facebook post, Lohani admitted that "the grim financial scenario cannot be denied or wished away, it indicates a gross lack of understanding of the issue on the part of many armchair critics to unfairly blame the company or its employees for the same. "
Lohani also slammed the previous UPA dispensation for the AI's current troubles.
He noted that "Air India went down due to the ill fated decision of the merger of two organizations that were not destined to be, coupled with many other wrong decisions of the earlier regime. Of course, gross mismanagement at the senior management levels of the company played its part in the rapid downward slide too, but isn't appointing senior management functionaries the function of the governments?"
UPA had forced Indian Airlines to merge with Air India, and then pressured them to buy so many airplanes on loans that it sank the latter.
Lohani had a word of praise for the Air India staff. "It needs appreciation that Air India always had and still has the finest set of employees, be it the pilots, cabin crew, engineers or the rest,” he said.
“Yet the mountain of debt that we acquired appears insurmountable and is at the root of all the problems that manifest as symptoms to all and sundry,” he added.
But Air India cannot be rescued and is worth doing so. It needs to be put to sleep to prevent it from causing further damage to itself, the taxpayer and the industry.
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