CAN SOMEONE PLEASE SAVE AIR INDIA?
India’s central government is eager to sell Air India to a private entity, but no one has yet shown any interest in the airline, except for Piyush Goyal.
Speaking at the World Economic Forum 2020 in Davos, Switzerland, the Union minister for Railways and Commerce said, “If I weren’t a minister today, I would be bidding for Air India.”
The solution, then, is simple. Prime Minister Modi needs to relieve Goyal of his ministerial duties, so he can buy Air India. It would be a great service to the country. And it would be a great benefit to Goyal. After all, would any reasonable person choose to be “Union Minister for Railways and Commerce” when they could instead be the “Maharajah of Air India”?
Despite Goyal’s pitch, it won’t be easy for the government to find bidders for Air India. Indeed, the government did not attract even a single bidder in 2018, when it was willing to sell a 76-percent stake (majority ownership) in Air India. This time, it’s willing to part with the entire company—100 percent of Air India, down to the last fading poster of the Maharajah.
The problem, of course, is that Air India has been losing a lot of money. In the past decade, it lost Rs. 69,575 crore, according to Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri. Most companies would have gone bankrupt by now, but Air India had the government to keep it afloat. Not anymore, apparently. The government is so serious about finding a buyer that it has reduced Air India’s debts by Rs. 63,113 crore, bringing it down to Rs. 23,286 crore. The government has also reduced the required net worth of the bidder from Rs. 5,000 crore to Rs. 3,500 crore. If you ask nicely, the government may even be willing to reduce the cost of landing fees for the next decade or so.
Compiled and partly written by Indian humorist MELVIN DURAI, author of the novel Bala Takes the Plunge.
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