Monetise Air India assets rather than selling stake: SJM to govt

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NEW DELHI: The RSS-affiliated Swadeshi Jagran Manch on Thursday opposed Air India’s disinvestment in the “current form” and said the government should monetise the national carrier’s assets for repayment of debt rather than selling its stake.

Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM) co-convener Ashwani Mahajan said Air India has operating profits, but is running into losses due to its debts.

“So rather than selling its stake in the national carrier, the government can reduce its (the carrier’s) debt by selling off its land,” he told.

His remarks assume significance as they come days after RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat had categorically said that Air India should not be sold to a foreign buyer.

The Centre has invited ‘expression of interest’ to sell a 76 per cent stake and management control in the airline.

Mahajan said that the SJM is “opposed” to disinvestment of the national carrier in its “current form”, asserting that the airline can be made profitable by repaying its debt.

He blamed the Congress for the sorry state of the airline and alleged that during the UPA’s tenure, the profitable routes of the Air India were given to other airlines.

“Rather than selling stake in the company, the government should make the airline profitable and then if required explore the option of raising money from the markets by issuing its shares,” Mahajan said.

The Indian government owns 100 per cent equity of Air India. The airline was founded in the 1930s and is commonly known for its Maharajah mascot.

The government has injected more than Rs 23,000 crore since 2012 to bail out the airline.