The Centre on Thursday told the Parliament that it owes debt-ridden national carrier Air India Rs 1,000.62 crore, PTI reported. Minister of State for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha said three ministries – those of external affairs, defence and home affairs – owe the airline the amount for “special extra section flights” used by the president, vice president and the prime minister.
Sinha was replying to a question on the matter in the Lok Sabha. “Regular follow-ups for the same are made by Air India and the Ministry of Civil Aviation and normally such dues are cleared from time to time,” Sinha said. Ministries concerned reimburse fares incurred by Air India in its “special extra section flights”.
The Centre has delayed clearing dues owed to the airline on several occasions but the current amount is twice the payment that was pending two years ago, CNBC-TV18 reported. In 2017, the Comptroller and Auditor General’s report had said the Centre’s unpaid dues to Air India as of March 31, 2016 was Rs 513.27 crore. The report observed that the Centre was yet to clear Rs 452.54 crore for the operation of VVIP flights during 2011-’12 to 2014-’15.
In August, Sinha had told the Parliament that the Centre had increased the compensation allotted to maintain the special aircraft.
Air India is reeling from debt worth Rs 55,000 crore, CNBC-TV18 reported. In March, the government had decided to divest 76% stake in the airline, ignoring a parliamentary panel’s recommendation to give the debt-ridden airline five years to revive itself. Air India has not earned profits since it was merged with the state-owned domestic operator Indian Airlines in 2007.
In July, the Centre had sought Parliament’s approval to sanction a Rs 980-crore supplementary grant for investment in equity shares for Air India during the 2018-’19 financial year. The airline’s total cumulative losses stood at Rs 47,145.62 crore in financial year 2016-’17, according to audited accounts.