New Delhi: Communist Party of India( CPI) has cautioned the Manmohan Singh government against going ahead with its reported move to privatize the Air India and handing over of the Chennai and Kolkata airports to private operators saying that this would lead to problems in the Civil aviation sector.
“ Such proposals will not only demoralize the employees of the national air carrier, but also create a sense of futility to make Air India a viable air carrier,” CPI National Secretary and Rajya Sabha MP D Raja has said in a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
The CPI leader also impressed upon Dr Singh about the experience of the private operators saying that” we have seen that the private operators of Delhi and Mumbai and others had created economic turbulence in the Civil Aviation sector.
Besides Airports Authority of India had invested huge sums in the modernization of Chennai and Kolkata airports, the letter said adding that it made no sense in handing over these airports to private operators.
Raja argued that it had has been repeatedly proven that the losses of Air India are due to the management practices inflicted on Air India by the Government. Moreover, we have seen how periods when Air India has been unable to operate sufficient number of flights and the private airlines levying predatory prices on the people and making huge profits.
There is definite linkage between the health of Air India and the massive predatory profits made by private airlines. Without the presence of Air India, the public will be totally exposed to the cartelization by private airlines.
HE SAID THERE is a need for government to safeguard the smooth running of Air India, the national air carrier. The Government had released only Rs.5,000 crores instead of the earmarked Rs.8,745 crores to Air India in the last fiscal. The remaining amount has not yet been released.
THE GOVERNMENT HAD PROMISED to bring a Civil Aviation Policy but did not do it even after so many years. It is undertaking privatization in bits and pieces without taking Parliament into confidence. While equity was not being infused in Air India in accordance with the turnaround plan, the Airports Authority of India is also being systematically undermined.
The left leader said just as in the telecom sector, there is a constant effort by the private players to eliminate a PSU company. The Government should draw lessons from what happened to the Kingfisher and several other private airlines.
Moreover, private airports have been charging huge fees for landing, all other services and have collected thousands of crores of User Development Fees. In short, private operators at various other metropolitan airports have collected huge fees and profits without investing much of their own money.”
It s therefore necessary for the government to avoid giving away huge investments to private operators as was done in Delhi, Mumbai and other places. The public are now hostage to the monopoly of private airports. Sadly, the agreements are so oppressive that no new airports can come up within 150 miles of their franchise.
The CPI leader said the government should tread very carefully before it creates problems in the aviation sector. As it is, middle classes find that air travel has become very expensive.
He also drew the PM”s attention about the experience of Delhi and Mumbai airports wherein the private operators have used government investments as leverage and drain away funds and try to utilize the real estate for a commercial quick buck. The public is the last in their consideration.
“ I am also not going into the cost-overruns and other alleged sleaze which has surfaced, the letter added.
Instead of trying to privatize Air India and sell-away the AAI airports of Chennai and Kolkata, the government can focus on how to help passengers in their travails and problems with airlines. A demand has been made many times to government to place a Grievance Officer at all airports to at least register complaints against private airlines. But the Ministry of Civil Aviation has just ignored such demands which will make private airlines answerable. Government should focus on how to help passengers and not how to sell away assets.