The process of Air India’s sale got off to a start on Tuesday, with the government approving a draft document inviting expressions of interest to be issued before the month-end, a senior official said on condition of anonymity.
In addition, the government could soon approve a further transfer of Air India’s debt—currently more than Rs 60,000 crore—to a special purpose vehicle (SPV), the official said. About half the debt has already been transferred to the SPV.
Tuesday’s meeting of a group of ministers was attended by home minister Amit Shah, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman, commerce minister Piyush Goyal, aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri and aviation secretary Pradeep Singh Kharola.
Puri said the government will soon release a statement regarding the decisions taken at the meeting.
It was not, however, immediately clear what the government plans to do with Air India’s large workforce, currently more than 20,000, including that of its subsidiaries. Air India has 128 aircraft in its fleet, according to its website, while its subsidiaries Air India Express has 25 and Alliance Air 19. A cash shortage has forced the grounding of 26 of these aircraft, according to a report by aviation consultancy firm CAPA India.
In a separate development, Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA), a representative body for pilots of Air India Ltd, on Tuesday said it will conduct a secret ballot to decide whether to call a strike or approach the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) as the airline has failed to clear pending dues of staff.
“A strike shall be declared only after giving 14 days’ notice to the employer… and provided two-thirds of the members of the respective regions vote for the decision to strike,” ICPA, which has more than 600 members, said in a statement to its members.
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