Pranab pulls up Air India officials for poor handling | india | Hindustan Times
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Pranab pulls up Air India officials for poor handling

Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee took senior aviation ministry and Air India (AI) officials to task for the shoddy handling of the affairs of the state-owned carrier in an action-packed meeting of the Group of Ministers (GoM) on Monday.

india Updated: Jul 18, 2011 23:29 IST

Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee took senior aviation ministry and Air India (AI) officials to task for the shoddy handling of the affairs of the state-owned carrier in an action-packed meeting of the Group of Ministers (GoM) on Monday.

While the GoM, as was expected, cleared Rs 532 crore for the bleeding carrier on account of operating VVIP and evacuation flights and gave its in-principle approval for infusing Rs 1,200 crore equity, the events at the meeting made the government's displeasure with the state of affairs in the AI clear.

The airline has accumulated losses to the tune of Rs 20,000 crore and has working capital and long term loans of more than Rs 43,000 crore.

Sources said that when discussions started on the Turnaround Plan (TAP) and the Financial Reconstruction Plan (FRP), Mukherjee, who heads the GoM, asked aviation ministry officials about the status of the cabinet note on the equity infusion of R1,200 crore.

When told that it was circulated on July 15, an irked Mukherjee sought explanations for the delay reminding officials that the GoM in its last meeting on June 22 had decided to circulate the cabinet note.

After a few minutes, consultants from Deloitte, which has prepared the TAP, started a presentation on the AI's future road map.

After some questions were posed to them, Mukherjee stopped the presentation citing "many questions have already been raised" and remarked they are "assuming too many things".

Even petroleum minister Jaipal Reddy found himself at the receiving end of Mukherjee's ire.

When Reddy said that if the Centre pumps in fresh fund for AI, then the state-owned oil marketing companies should be paid back Rs 2,700 crore. Mukherjee asked him not to open a new controversy.

Top sources told HT that many "loose ends" were found in the bills that were sent to cabinet secretary for the VVIP and evacuation flights for his vetting.

The GoM will meet again next week.