Oshiwara in Andheri and Pali Hill in Bandra could be equidistant from the city airport but the management of Air India seems to have a different opinion.
The loss-making airline bypassed the company’s policy that any employee owning a house in the city does not qualify for company accommodation and, last week, gave a plush 1,250-sq-ft flat in Pali Hill to Mukesh Bhatia, the airport manager in Mumbai, although he already has a flat in Oshiwara.
Before the allotment, Gurpal Singh, a personnel department manager with the airline, had raised concerns about it in a letter to P Eshwarchandran, officer on special duty to the chairman, Arvind Jadhav.
The written response he got from Eshwarchandran said: “When the request application [from Bhatia] was received by the chairman’s office, all the relevant facts mentioned in your letter were considered and a decision was taken to allot the flat to him.”
The Hindustan Times has copies of both the letters.
Singh’s letter had stated that Bhatia had availed a home loan of Rs3 lakh from the company in 1997 and another loan of Rs6 lakh from HDFC Bank to buy the Oshiwara flat.
The Hindustan Times sent the airline an email with the details of the letters exchanged on the issue and asked for a response. An Air India spokesperson confirmed the allotment and said: “Such decisions are taken on the basis of operational and administrative requirements.”
This means the airline allotted the Bandra flat to Bhatia because it wanted him to be located closer to the airport. “If it is a question of proximity, the Air India colony in Kalina is closest to the airport. Both Pali Hill and Oshiwara are equidistant from the airport,” an airline source said, requesting anonymity because he is not authorised to speak to the media.
This allotment was done at a time when the vigilance department caught 25 employees, who were living in official quarters despite owning homes. The airline is in the process of recovering rent arrears to the tune Rs1.36 crore from these employees. It has begun deducting up to Rs16,000 as monthly rent and will continue to do so until the time these employees vacate the company quarters.
“On one hand the company has asked us to vacate the quarters or pay rent, while the manager gets a plush house till the time of retirement,” said an official requesting anonymity.