BJP smells bigger scam in Air India; demands reply from PM

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New Delhi, May 2: Suspecting a "bigger scam" in Air India operations, BJP demanded that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh pin responsibility for the alleged mismanagement in the running of the national carrier.

Pointing out that Air India losses have mounted after the merger of the domestic and international airliners, BJP spokesman Rajiv Pratap Rudy wondered whether the present state of affairs in the airlines was a ploy to shut it down.

Rudy wondered whether the government was trying to cover up a bigger scam in Air India by targeting pilots.

He said the airlines had on earlier ocassions blamed the global financial crisis, rise in fuel prices and increasing competition for its mounting losses.

"We have now heard the government and the present management blaming pilots for its losses," he said here.

"The Prime Minister must be frank enough to find out and tell the nation as to who is responsible for all this," Rudy, a former civil aviation minister, said.

He claimed that pilots belonging to Indian Airlines were under-utilised in the merged entity -- NACIL -- and any government decision to declare a shutdown would only help meet the demand of pilots required by the private airlines.

Rudy said he had reasons to believe the PMO was deeply involved in running the airline and wanted to know as to who was responsible for the merger of Air India and Indian Airlines and its subsequent failure.

He said over the years Air India had developed several profitable routes which were handed over to private airlines, an action which has led to drop in revenues.

Rudy said the national carrier was not fully utilising the aircraft it has at its disposal. He said Air India, which has the largest fleet in the country, operates an aircraft for about eight hours every day where as private airlines operate an aircraft for nearly 16 hours every day.

He claimed the Boeing 777 aircraft acquired by Air India were kept in the bays for four months causing enormous loss to the state exchequer.

"Is it a well-planned conspiracy to shut down the airline or does the government want to privatise Air India," he asked.

He said the government had time and again made efforts to bail out Air India but such attempts have not been fruitful.

"What happened to the Rs 2000 crore given by the exchequer to Air India," he asked.

Rudy also attacked Civil Aviation Minister Vayalar Ravi for dubbing pilots as a "bunch of 12th pass" persons who were demanding more money.

"Former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was also a pilot. Is Ravi also referring to him as a 12th pass person," he wondered. Rudy said he expected Congress President Sonia Gandhi to respond to Ravi's remarks.

PTI

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