Aviation Policy Faulty: Dr Pentapati Pullarao

Dear   Dr. Manmohan Singh ji,

There have been alarming news reports that the Hon. Minister of Civil Aviation is considering proposals to privatize Air India. Such proposals conveyed to the media create de-moralization in the employees and also create a sense of futility in trying to make Air India a viable air carrier.

It has been repeatedly proven that the losses of Air India are due 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 numbers of flights, private airlines have levied predatory prices on the people and made 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.

There is also a need for the government to avoid creating disturbances in the smooth running of Air India. When such statements are made, employees feel un-easy and many of the best professionals leave. Just as in the telecom sector, there is a constant effort by the private players to eliminate a PSU company.  I urge that the government strengthen Air India and avoid any steps which will weaken civil aviation in the country.

Privatization of AAI airports of Chennai and Kolkata:

Airports Authority of India has invested huge sums in the modernization of Chennai and Kolkata airports.  After such an exercise, it does not make sense to hand over these airports to private operators. We have seen that the private operators of other airports like Delhi, Mumbai, etc have created economic turbulence in the civil aviation sector. Private airports have been charging huge fees for landing, all other services and have collected thousands of cores 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.

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.

Kindly issue necessary direction to the Civil Aviation Ministry to avoid talk of privatization of Air India and also handing over Chennai and Kolkata airports at this juncture. The experience of private airport operators in Delhi and Mumbai have shown that they use 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.

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.

With regards                                                                       yours sincerely

Dr. Manmohan Singh.

Hon. Prime Minister

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