New Delhi, May 29 :
Civil Aviation Minister Pusapati Ashok Gajapathi Raju Thursday said all major decisions taken by the previous UPA government in the sector would be reviewed.
However, the minister said, he was “not close” to the idea of privatising Air India and will discuss revival of the national carrier with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“We will be reviewing all the major decisions taken by the previous government. I am not questioning anyone, neither will I prosecute anyone or protect anyone,” the minister told reporters after taking charge at the Rajiv Gandhi Bhavan, headquarters of the ministry here.
Asked about the controversies surrounding the issue of new airline licences, the minister said: “There are controversies, but I would not like to start (talk) about controversies today.”
About reviving Air India, Gajapathi Raju said: “I will discuss Air India’s situation with the prime minister. We will have to analyse the reasons for losses… is it competition or something else.”
“PSUs should survive and there is a need to review their performance so as to see that they maintain profitability. However, I am not close to the idea (of Air India’s privatisation).”
Air India has recently managed to improve its financial condition by becoming EBITA (earnings before interest, taxes and amortization) -positive for the first time but it is far from breaking-even or ushering in profits.
The beleaguered flag carrier has got a new lease of life as the previous government had approved plans for a turnaround in its fortunes with a rehaul in financial and operational efficiency which are known as turnaround programmes (TAP) and financial restructuring plans (FRP).
Currently the airline is burdened with a cumulative debt of Rs.40,000 crore it incurred over aircraft acquisition and as short-term loans to maintain its operations.
It received a fresh equity infusion of Rs.5,000 crore in the interim budget for 2014-15.
The cash-strapped carrier will be provided a total infusion of around Rs.20,000 crore till 2020-2021 to turn around its operational and financial performance.
According to Gajapathi Raju, the government will take complete cognisance of the situation being faced by the cash-strapped sector which has seen airlines and private airport operators bleed in the recent past due to high fuel and interest costs.
“The government will have to look at the total picture being faced by the industry. Civil aviation is a basic infrastructure for the future and is very important,” he said.
Even after a slew of reforms like allowing direct import of jet fuel and participation of foreign airlines in domestic passenger carriers, the industry continues to bleed.
The minister said the government is mulling renaming the domestic terminal at Hyderabad.
“We will look into the issue of renaming domestic terminal of Hyderabad with the name of NTR (N.T. Rama Rao). This has been a long standing demand of the people. We were earlier not able to do it but now we will look into the matter and go ahead with it,” he said.
Hailing from north coastal Andhra, the 62-year-old minister is the lone representative of the Telugu Desam Party in the Modi cabinet.
Gajapathi Raju has become a central minister on his parliamentary debut. In a political career spanning nearly 35 years, he was elected to the Andhra Pradesh assembly seven times. A member of the TDP politburo, he is considered close to party chief N. Chandrababu Naidu.