File photo. Photograph:( Reuters )
Seeking to clear the air arising out of his statement in Parliament yesterday, he said on Friday, 'There is no confusion. We are committed to disinvestment.'
A day after his statement gave an impression that the government's plan to privatise Air India was put on hold, Minister of State for Civil Aviation Hardeep Singh Puri on Friday asserted that the Centre was committed to disinvestment of the national carrier.
Seeking to clear the air arising out of his statement in Parliament yesterday, he said on Friday, "There is no confusion. We are committed to disinvestment. There was a long answer to a Parliament question. Somebody read the first half without reading the second half. There is no confusion".
In a written reply to Congress MP Anto Antony's question in the Lok Sabha, Puri on Thursday said that the "present environment" is not conducive to stimulating interest among investors in the disinvestment plan.
"In view of volatile crude prices and adverse fluctuations in exchange rates, the present environment is not conducive to stimulate interest amongst investors for strategic disinvestment of Air India in immediate near future. The issue would be revisited once global economic indicators including oil prices and forex conditions stabilize," he had said.
The government stepped in quickly to clarify matters. An official press release said, "However, continued support from the government had resulted in improvement of financial and operational performance of Air India. As per the recommendations of AISAM, the govt will now go ahead with the process of disinvestment of the company."
In a meeting on 28th June 2017, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs had in-principle approved the consideration for strategic disinvestment of Air India and its five subsidiaries. An Air India Specific Alternative Mechanism (AISAM) was constituted by CCEA to guide the process on of strategic disinvestment.
The AISAM at a meeting in March last year had decided that due to issues like volatile crude oil prices and adverse fluctuations in exchange rates, the atmosphere was not conducive for the disinvestment.
"But this was last year," the government said in the press releases.
The government failed in its attempt to sell a 76 per cent stake in loss-making Air India due to a lack of interest from bidders last year, a report said.
Air India suffered Rs 7,635 crore (provisional) loss in the financial year 2018-19.
It was Rs 5348 crore in 2017-18, while the carrier had to suffer Rs 6452 crore, the highest ever, in the financial year 2016-17.
The government infused Rs 3,975 crore in Air India in the financial year ended March, the government said in Parliament.