Patel to meet AI independent directors before board meet

Mumbai, Jan 18 (PTI) Ahead of a crucial meeting of the AirIndia Board tomorrow, Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel islikely to meet the airline''s independent directors.

"Air India Board meeting scheduled for 1500 hours has nowbeen deferred to 1700 hours as the Minister has called ameeting of the independent directors on the same day," sourcestold PTI here.

Just three days ago, Patel had a thorough scrutiny ofsteps taken by AI management to restructure the nationalcarrier. His meeting with top airline officials came weeksafter the government decided to infuse additional equity of Rs1,200 crore in Air India.

Besides approving the presentations on its financialperformance, its turnaround plan and steps taken to cut costs,the meeting is expected to discuss the contentious issue ofwage rationalisation of over 26,000 employees.

The meeting is also likely to take up the issue of sackingof Air India Express Chief Operating Officer Capt Pawan Arora.

Although the Board at a meeting on November 18 hadrecommended his sacking, he continues in the hot seat tilldate. There are reports that Air India CMD Arvind Jadhav andthe independent directors are at variance on the issue ofArora continuing in the post despite the Board''s decision.

Officials, requesting anonymity, said a section of themanagement felt that Arora should be given time to completehis probation period of 6 months.

There was also an argument that the performance of AirIndia Express has been on an upward curve ever since he joinedthe carrier in October last and that for these reasons Arorashould be allowed to retain his job.

In November, independent directors - Anand Mahindra, FaliHomi Major, Harshavardhan Neotia and Amit Mitra - had met T KA Nair, Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, on thestatus of the national carrier including the controversialappointments made at the top level like that of Arora.

Meanwhile, Air India has again issued an advertisement fora Chief Strategy Officer in the company, three months afterthe Board put on hold a proposal to appoint former IBMexecutive Karan Khara to the post, following reportedopposition by an independent director.

Much before Khara applied for this job, he had beenadvising Jadhav on the turnaround plan for airline andassisting in the meetings of the airline''s Strategy Committee.

Sources said the financial restructuring plan prepared byconsultancy firm Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu India Limited wouldalso be deliberated upon at the meeting, which comes ahead ofpresentations the management would make before the FinanceMinistry and the Board for Reconstruction of Public SectorEnterprises (BRPSE) in the near future.

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