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Rediff.com  » Business » A-I, IA sell-off not now, says Hussain

A-I, IA sell-off not now, says Hussain

December 11, 2002 13:07 IST

Civil Aviation Minister Syed Shahnawaz Hussain on Wednesday emphasised there were no proposals at present for the divestment of Air-India and Indian Airlines.

He said the entire focus now was on buying new aircraft and the matter would be shortly put up before the Cabinet Committee on Security, chaired by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

Hussain expressed confidence that the issue would be sorted out in the current financial year.

He said the purchase of 17 aircraft for Air-India and 43 for Indian Airlines was going to the highest level since it involved huge sums of money.

The minister, talking to reporters after addressing an international conference on aviation and tourism, said the divestment ministry had not advanced any fresh proposals for the sell-off of the two airlines.

Any plans for divestment will be taken up only after the new aircraft are purchased and the airlines are strengthened, he insisted.

"Even before the September 11 tragedy there were no buyers for Air-India and Indian Airlines. How will there be bidders now? I am not against divestment, but this is not the right time for selling the airlines. We are concentrating now on buying new aircraft and not divestment," he said.

He said new services had been started by Air-India. It would be difficult to keep up the momentum unless aircraft were bought.

For the fleet expansion, the ministry of finance would have the main role since a large amount of money was required. Hence, the CCS will decide when and how many aircraft are to be bought on the basis of the recommendations made by the two airlines, he added.

Hussain also announced that the draft bill for privatisation of the Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata airports was ready and would be put up before the Cabinet soon for its approval.

The proposal for privatising the four metro airports through a joint venture with Airports Authority of India as percentage partners will be delayed (it was to be completed by March 2003) because the ministry was examining various comments, including those made by the Standing Committee of Parliament.

The minister said the government was formulating a comprehensive Civil Aviation Policy, emphasising on the increasing role of the private sector not only for bridging the gap in resources but also to bring in greater efficiency in management of aviation infrastructure.

To instill confidence in the potential private sector investors, and also to protect the interests of users, the government was proposing an Independent Airports Economic Regulatory Authority for the limited economic regulation of airports particularly in the context of private airports.

Following demands made by international airlines to bring down landing charges at Indian airports, a committee had been asked to look into the matter and give a report in 15 days, Hussain said.

He said to enable tourists to come to India, a capacity of more than a million seats had been added and for the peak season from December to March, a unilateral limited open sky policy had been announced for carriers from western Europe and the United States.

UNI