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Tuesday, 16 May, 2017, 18 : 00 PM [IST]

INR 48,000-cr debt of Air India is insurmountable: Ashwani Lohani

As per the PTI report, Ashwani Lohani, CMD, Air India has termed the carrier’s over INR 48,000-crore debt as “insurmountable” and blamed the erstwhile UPA government for its precarious finances.

In a Facebook post on Sunday, Lohani also took on “armchair critics” for blaming the company and its employees for the declining fortunes of the Maharaja.

“Air India went down due to the ill-fated decision of the merger of two organisations that were not destined to be, coupled with many other wrong decisions of the earlier regime. Yet the mountain of debt that we acquired appears insurmountable and is at the root of all the problems that manifest as symptoms to all and sundry,” Lohani said in his hard-hitting post.

Air India, which is surviving on a INR 30,000-crore bailout package spread over a 10-year period, is working on ways to improve its financial position.

In the last financial year, the airline posted an operational profit of INR 105 crore thanks to low fuel prices and increased passenger numbers.

Currently, the airline’s debt is estimated at a little over INR 48,000 crore, with nearly a third accounted by aircraft acquisition.

A consortium of 19 lenders has extended loans to the national carrier.

It is looking to rejig debt worth INR 10,000 crore under the scheme for sustainable restructuring of bad assets floated by the Reserve Bank of India.

Pointing out that while the grim financial scenario cannot be denied or wished away, Lohani said, “It indicates a gross lack of understanding of the issue on the part of many armchair critics to unfairly blame the company or its employees for the same.” Acknowledging that “gross mismanagement” at senior levels played its part in the rapid slide too, the Air India chief questioned the prudence of the government which appoints senior management functionaries.

Lohani also stoutly defended his entire workforce, including the pilots and engineers, saying that “it needs appreciation that Air India always had and still has the finest set of employees be it the pilots, cabin crew, engineers or the rest.” As part of its planned equity infusion, the Government has allocated INR 1,800 crore to Air India in the current fiscal.

Till March, the carrier had received around INR 24,000 crore from the government.

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