Mumbai : As India is pushing to privatise the debt-laden national carrier, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat said on Monday that Air India should only be run by an Indian company.
“The question isn’t whether Air India isn’t running well, but whether it’s being run well,” he said, while speaking at a function at the Bombay Stock Exchange on Monday. Air India has relevance that goes beyond its assets, has intangible benefits, he added.
“It is being said the Air India is making losses and has huge burden of loans and hence it is being sold off. But, one must also take into account the various forms of tangible and intangible assets that the national carrier has and try to build on it. It needs to be put into hands of one who would manage it in a better way,” Bhagwat said.
Bhagwat said nowhere in the world has any country allowed a stake of more than 49 per cent to foreign investors in national carriers, and specifically mentioned Germany, where foreign ownership is capped at 29 per cent. He also advocated confiscation of shares if the foreign holding breaches the 49 per cent mark and selling it to domestic investors, as is done in some countries.
While valuing Air India, one should not look only at tangible assets and get bogged down by the accumulated debt of Rs 55,000 crore, but also look at aspects like the landing rights at 30 global airports and availability of trained manpower, he said.
“One has to view Air India’s losses in contrast to the assets it has. Air India’s operations haven’t been managed properly,” Bhagwat said
As part of the Air India stake sale plan, the government will sell 76 per cent in the airline, along with 100 per cent in its low-cost arm Air India Express and 50 per cent in the ground handling unit. A potential buyer will have to take on more than half of the Rs 54,000 crore debt. The government plans to retain the remaining 24 per cent in the airline.
Talking about the economy, the RSS chief said going “completely cashless” was not practical and possible for everyone. “Some component of cash is going to be there in our transactions,” he added.