Privatisation of national carrier Air India will not happen immediately, but cannot be ruled out in future, the civil aviation minister said
State-owned Airports Authority of India (AAI) and national helicopter company Pawan Hans will be listed on the stock exchanges to improve transparency and efficiency, Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju said on Monday.
The Minister also said that privatisation of national carrier Air India will not happen immediately, but cannot be ruled out in future and there have been suggestions from various quarters in this regard.
Proposals for listing of AAI and Pawan Hans have been made in the Draft Civil Aviation Policy, released by Raju.
Raju said that an expert committee will be constituted to develop the future roadmap for Air India.
"It is essential to ensure that the national carrier achieves its full potential," the Minister said, while adding that a Mission Mode project will also be set up to ensure that all organisations under the Ministry are competitive in terms of cost and efficiency.
"AAI will be corporatised followed by its listing on the stock exchanges to improve efficiency and transparency," Raju said, adding that listing of Pawan Hans would also be undertaken with the same objective.
AAI, a miniratna public sector enterprise, manages 125 airports across the country, including 11 International, 81 domestic and eight Customs Airports. It also manages 25 Civil Enclaves at Defence Airfields.
It has entered into joint ventures at Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Bengaluru and Nagpur Airports to upgrade them.
AAI also provides air traffic management services over entire Indian Air Space and adjoining oceanic areas with ground installations at airports and other locations.
Pawan Hans was incorporated in 1985 and presently its shareholding comprises 51% with the Indian government and 49% with state-run ONGC.
It was incorporated with the primary objective of providing helicopter support services to the oil sector for its off-shore exploration operations, services in remote and hilly areas and charter services for promotion of tourism.
Over the years, it has grown into one of Asia's largest helicopter companies and has a fleet of 47 helicopters.
It’s time to make Robert Vadra’s poser a national slogan and get regulators and governments to become serious about citizen and consumer rights
In the previous issue, I wrote that minority shareholders of DLF Limited are being punished by the market regulator for the acts of its promoter family going as far back as 2007. Soon after, the comptroller & auditor general (CAG) released its report, confirming what Dr Ashok Khemka, the brilliant and upright IAS officer of Haryana government, had said—that its deal with Robert Vadra, son-in-law of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, was dodgy. In fact, it had led to a windfall profit of Rs44 crore to Mr Vadra’s company, Skylight Hospitality Pvt Ltd, in quick time.
Mr Vadra’s clout got him the land allotted by the Haryana government to build a commercial colony, although it had no funds to even qualify for the bid. DLF lent Mr Vadra’s company the funds to buy the land and then gave him a windfall profit through a buyback. It does not require much imagination to know that a large realty company will not gift away such gains without a quid pro quo.
If things weren’t bad enough, Robert Vadra’s reaction to a reporter’s question gave television channels the excuse for high-decibel, prime time discussion, with more collateral damage to DLF Limited.
“Are you serious,” asked Mr Vadra four times and rudely shoved the mike, displaying the shocked outrage of ultra-privileged, State-protected royalty. Most of us feel justifiably angry at his arrogance. But several events in the past week have got me thinking that we, the people, need to be asking this question more often—with as much outrage. And we need to address this to the government and its agencies whose job is to serve the people.
For instance, I want to ask the Securities & Exchange Board of India (SEBI) ‘are you really serious’ about corporate wrongdoing? If yes, why did you wait for seven years until there was a new government in place to ban DLF from the market for misstatements in its prospectus? The same question could be asked to the Bhupinder Singh Hooda government which persecuted Dr Khemka for doing his job, despite nationwide outrage over its actions.
The Hooda government was, at least, booted out of office in the recent elections and the new regime may be inclined to investigate its misdeeds. But is it enough? Elections are held only once in five years; but, when it comes to regulators, they don’t even face that test of public scrutiny. How do we make our government accountable to us citizens?
Prime minister Narendra Modi has promised good governance and rule of law; but, unless regulators are made more accountable and forced to act in a time-bound manner, even genuine investigation and enforcement actions and decisions will smack of a witch-hunt.
In India, every financial regulator, central investigation, taxation and enforcement agency—even the ministry of corporate affairs—has always behaved like a handmaiden of the government. For instance, each of them has suppressed detailed and specific complaints against a powerful, listed television company in the past few years. After the BJP came to power, each of them has dusted down their files and started asking questions.
Will the investigation be taken to its logical conclusion where the company is either exonerated or punished? Or will the findings be buried again? It begs the question: Are our regulators serious? Or will we continue the policy of ‘show me the person and I will show you the law’ after checking his/her political clout?
Let’s now move from companies and financial regulators to what government departments and ministries are doing. Consider the recent embarrassment of Maharashtra’s newly elected chief minister Devendra Fadnavis. His first announcement on taking charge was that he would introduce the Right to Service Act to empower citizens. Did his bureaucrats forget to tell him that this Act was passed and notified in 2006 and was in limbo ever since? Or that its official nomenclature was “Government Servants Regulation of Transfers and Prevention of Delay in Discharge of Official Duties Act, 2006”?
Former central information commissioner, Shailesh Gandhi, has been campaigning for proper implementation of this Act since the beginning of this year. In May 2014, he even conducted an awareness-building seminar at Moneylife Foundation and urged concerned citizens to file applications under the Act. A key provision of this statute is the Citizen’s Charter, which spells out the services citizens should expect and in what timeframe and prescribes action against officials for delays.
Hopefully, Devendra Fadnavis has asked his chief secretary: ‘Are you serious?’ about this goof-up with at least as much outrage as Mr Vadra showed. More importantly, will he ensure that it is properly implemented?
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has pulled a similar fast one on consumers. It has drafted a ‘Charter of Consumer Rights’ that was notified in August 2014 after discussions with various stakeholders. But RBI is turning a deaf ear to our repeated pleas that a Bill of consumer rights is useless if it does not spell out the consequences and penalties for treating customers unfairly. Naturally, we are asking RBI, ‘are you really serious’ about consumer rights.
Today, concerned Indians are forced to file public interest litigation (PIL) to get the government to act. Even long-drawn litigation, leading to an important court order, does not guarantee change. A year or two later, it becomes clear that the government, or its ministries, have no intention of implementing judgements and the activists are back in court with a contempt petition for a PIL to get a law implemented. Twice this month, the Bombay high court has had to ask: ‘are you serious’ (or words to that effect).
On 1st November, a divisional bench of the Bombay high court asked the Maharashtra government to apprise it of the steps taken to implement the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007. Seven years after the Act was passed, the NGO, Mission Justice, and advocate Siddharth Murarka, filed a PIL asking the court to direct the government to implement the Act. The government has been asked to respond by 14th November. This is another case where a law is ostensibly enacted for the protection and welfare of senior citizens, but the government is not at all serious about making it work.
Finally, there is the decade-long battle fought by brave-heart activist Samir Zaveri for medical facilities for accident victims. Mr Zaveri, who lost both his legs in a railway accident at the age of 16, filed a contempt plea in a 10-year old order (6 October 2004) asking the railways to provide emergency medical aid to accident victims. On 19 March 2013, the Bombay HC issued an important order with detailed directions to the railways on emergency medical help which covered the cost of ambulances and hospitals.
But he is back in court, because the Indian railways simply don’t care. On 5th November, a furious Bombay HC bench of Justices Abhay Oka and Ajey Gadkari pulled up the railways for their insensitivity and contrary stand in court. With 3,600 deaths and over 4,000 accidents every year on Mumbai’s suburban railway tracks, should we expect the railways to be more serious about emergency medical care to save the lives of those who simply bleed to death?
We, at Moneylife, have discovered the utter callousness of the system, when our colleague was a victim of the killer tracks in July. Unless we can make top officials accountable, the railways are unlikely to get serious about passenger safety.
Maybe it’s time to make Mr Vadra’s query a national slogan and get regulators and governments, at all levels, to become serious about citizen and consumer rights.
(Sucheta Dalal is the managing editor of Moneylife. She was awarded the Padma Shri in 2006 for her outstanding contribution to journalism. She can be reached at [email protected])
As per the SIAM data, vehicle sales across categories registered a decline of 3.84% to 17.9 lakh units in October from 18.6 lakh units in same month last year
Domestic passenger car sales declined 2.55% to 1.59 lakh units in October from 1.63 lakh units in the year-ago month.
According to data released by the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM), motorcycle sales last month also declined 8.73% to 10.1 lakh units from 11.1 lakh units a year earlier. Total two-wheeler sales in October declined 3.61% to 14.62 lakh units.
Sales of commercial vehicles declined 2.97% to 51,965 units in October, SIAM said.
Vehicle sales across categories registered a decline of 3.84% to 17.9 lakh units from 18.6 lakh units in October 2013, it added.