Civil aviation minister Ajit Singh on Sunday said the government would not privatise national carrier Air India, but warned the airline must perform or perish.
Singh backtracked from his statement on Saturday, when he said privatisation was an option because the current economic rendered the Rs. 32,000-crore bailout currently sustaining the carrier untenable.
"This government has no intention to privatise Air India. After this package of Rs. 32,000 crore, the government will not give any more money. Air India will have to fend for itself," Singh told NDTV.
He said the airline cannot be complacent as many news airlines were entering the market.
“Both the management and employees of AI must perform or perish," Singh said, adding the government was committed to restructuring AI’s long-term debt to turn it around.
"The margins are thin and it's a capital intensive industry," the minister said.
The change of stand by the Union Minister came amid mounting pressure by the Opposition parties, which took strong objection to his earlier remark and accused him of selling public asset without bringing a civil aviation policy.
Warning the minister against making any "off-the-cuff" remark, senior BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad said there must be a proper discussion on the issue.
"It is a serious and sensitive issue. There must be proper discussion within the government first and thereafter the views of the opposition need to be taken," he told reporters here when asked to comment on Singh's remarks.
Asking the government not to take a "disastrous move" which will go against national interest, senior CPI leader D Raja said the government had promised to bring a civil aviation policy but did not do it in so many years.
"It is undertaking privatisation in bits and pieces without taking Parliament into confidence.
"While equity was not being infused in AI in accordance with the turn- around plan, Airports Authority of India (AAI) was also being systematically undermined. This is a conscious effort to dismantle both these public sector undertakings," the CPI national secretary said.
(With PTI inputs)