Vol. 6 | Issue 4 |July 2012
humour mk kaw
Various sleuths created by Agatha Christie, James Hadley Chase or Earl Stanley Gardner would suggest that if you want to catch the murderer, look for the person, howsoever unlikely, who benefits from the murder. In whose favour does the will of the deceased leave the money, the business empire or the property? So who is the beneficiary of Air India’s demise? Who will buy all its assets, training infrastructure, its vast fleet, its lucrative routes, etc., at very cheap rates? Obviously, it will be the two other major players on the Indian aviation scene: Jet Airways and Indigo Airlines.
I was Secretary Civil Aviation during 1997-98. Later, I was appointed as Chairman of the Expert Committee on Reorganisation of the DGCA (known as the Kaw Committee), bulk of the recommendations of which have been implemented. I was nominated with the approval of the CVC, as the External Integrity Monitor of the Airports Authority of India? The point I am making is that I have been in constant touch with the goings-on in this sector.
I have been seeing one airline on a constantly rising upward curve. Some of the news I have received about this airline is as follows:
- Started with 40% FDI by two airlines from the Gulf.
- Instrumental in imposing a total ban on any further FDI in the aviation sector; as a result, the proposal of Tata Singapore Airlines did not see the light of the day.
- Right from the beginning there have been questions about the ownership of the airline. The person who claims to be the owner did not have the requisite background or financial clout. The names bandied about in this connection include the owner of Sahara Airlines, the D company, top politicians, film actors and so on.
- The MHA, IB and other security agencies have been raising questions about the top management, and these have never been satisfactorily explained.
- It shows losses in most years, but is able to add continuously and steadily to its fleet.
- There is no satisfactory explanation for the sources of its seemingly inexhaustible funds.
- It has been alleged that this airline is able to get the most lucrative altitudes for flying by providing illegal incentives to the ATCs.
- It has allegedly been able to influence government policy by currying favour with ministers, secretaries and other senior officials, which have helped to weaken and destroy Air India and get concessions for itself.
The other part of the story concerns the systematic denudation of Air India by its management and owners, while professing the utmost concern for the welfare of the airlines and its employees.
Some of these steps are:
- Large scale purchase of unnecessary aircraft, which do not run to full capacity and add to losses.
- Posting of non-professionals as chief executives
- Handing over companies to officers in the Ministry as a part-time or full-time charge.
- Taking policy decisions which are directly injurious, for example, the merger of Indian Airlines and Air India.
- Non-finalisation of a national civil aviation policy; most decisions get taken on an ad hoc basis.
- Misuse of aircraft for various purposes like inaugural flights, Haj, VVIP flights, etc.
- Mollycoddling of airline staff, ATCs and so on, allowing them to go on strike and grant of undeserved concessions and perquisites to them.
The interesting part is that there is a conspiracy between the political executive and the various interests itemised above. The airlines are treated as milch cows which can be callously and continuously milked without any consideration for their health and well being.
Thus, if we attempt an honest answer to the question posed in the title of this piece, the answer is that a particular successful airline is systematically leading the attack and the politicians, the bureaucrats and other vested interests play a supplementary role. They abet in the commission of the murder. g
(MK Kaw is former secretary, Government of India )