India's civil aviation history would have taken a different trajectory had the Tata group and Singapore Airlines been allowed to float a private airline 15 years ago, says former bureaucrat MK Kaw in his tell-all book.
“The Tatas had mooted a proposal for a private airline with 40% equity contribution from Singapore Airlines.
“As this would have been a formidable competitor, Jet tried hard to upset rules regarding foreign equity contribution,” the former civilian aviation secretary in the IK Gujral government writes in An Outsider Everywhere — Revelations by an Insider, published by Konark.
Kaw, who was in the IAS for 37 years, says he advocated a rule in the policy related to allowing 40% equity contribution by foreign airlines even in new proposals.
“This was seen by Jet as a victory for the Tatas. If approached as policy, it would enable favourable consideration of the Tata proposal. (Then civil aviation minister Chand Mahal) Ibrahim was not happy... Jet people had told him that I was trying to show undue favour to the Tatas,” he writes.
“The minister did not clear the file, despite several attempts on my part. The history of civil aviation in this country would have taken a different trajectory, if Tata Singapore Airlines had been allowed to float an airline."
On a civil aviation policy, he writes, “The country does not have a civil aviation policy even today. It is of the considered view of many experts in civil aviation that FDI investment will not be allowed in India till this is permitted by the powerful owners of Jet Airways.”
According to Kaw, the Tatas also wanted to set up an international airport at Bangalore.
“They had a foreign collaborator with all the expertise connected with setting up of world-class airports... I submitted the case to the minister (Ibrahim). He did not okay the proposal.
“The Tatas finally got tired of waiting and withdrew their proposal. Recently, Ratan Tata explained that one person had stood between the Tatas and the fulfilment of their aspirations in the civil aviation sector. But he did not elaborate,” Kaw writes.
On the current scenario in Air India, he says, “It is a story of shameless exploitation and ruthless corruption.”