Dubbing the CAG report on Air India's aircraft acquisition as "full of contradictions", civil aviation minister in UPA-I government, Praful Patel on Thursday said the airline would have closed down if new planes were not added to its fleet.
"Whatever the government did in its wisdom was to make the airline commercially viable. We had to decide immediately as to whether new planes should be bought otherwise the airline would have closed down," Patel, who was at helm at the civil aviation ministry when it took the purchase decision, told reporters in New Delhi.
"In 2004, Air India and Indian Airlines had 93 aircraft, most of which were 20 years old. There was no way the airline could have withstood the global competition with these planes," Patel, now the Heavy Industries Minister in UPA-II, added.
His comments came soon after the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) questioned the Civil Aviation Ministry's decision to acquire 111 planes for Air India through debt, calling it "a recipe for disaster". Terming the move for acquiring a "large number" of planes as "risky", CAG in its report tabled in Parliament today, said the aircraft acquisition had "contributed predominantly" to the airline's massive debt liability of Rs 38,423 crore as on March 31 last year.