Modi Government Owes ₹822 Crore To Debt-Ridden Air India For VVIP Travel: RTI
The Union Government announced 100 percent divestment in Air India to reduce the debt burden on the airline. Interestingly, an RTI response revealed that the government owes the airline a sum of Rs 1,371.14 crore for travels by the VVIPs and other government officials over the last several years.
In a Right to Information (RTI) response, the government has revealed that it owes ₹1,371.14 crore to Air India, which is one of the top disinvestment targets of the Centre that will witness a 100 per cent divestment to reduce the debt burden on the airline.
The RTI inquiry was filed by Commodore Lokesh Batra (retd) who sought to know the updated and detailed information on total pending dues towards VVIP charter flights and amounts owed by different public authorities towards Air India among other details.
As on November 30, 2019, out of the total amount due, the government of India owes Air India ₹845.04 crore. This includes ₹822 crore for the travel of the VVIP and an additional ₹9.67 crore towards evacuation operations and ₹12.65 crore towards ferrying foreign dignitaries were also pending.
Of the total ₹845 crores, The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) owes the highest amount to the airline, ₹473.88 crore, followed by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) with ₹261.76 crore and Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) with ₹109.41 crore, revealed the RTI response.
The airline provides the aircraft service for the travel of the president, the vice-president and the prime minister for which the bills are paid by the ministries under the VVIP category.
Apart from the cost to ferry VVIPs, an additional cost of ₹526.14 crore is owed to the airline for travel of the government officials as of March 31, 2019. Almost half of the non-VVIP travel amount ₹236.15 crore is pending for more than three years. In the past year, the dues from the government departments have protruded by ₹167 crore, reported Deccan Herald.
Air India has provisioned for only one-fifth of the amount due worth ₹282 crore as an accounting charge in its account books for "probable non-recovery".
Owing to a substantial increase in debt, since last December the airline has stopped issuing tickets on credit to officials and agencies which owe it more than ₹10 lakh each. These include the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the Enforcement Directorate (ED), Income Tax, Intelligence Bureau, CRPF, Department of Posts, Reserve Bank of India among others.
According to the Civil Aviation Ministry's response, Air India reported a net loss of ₹8,556.35 crore (provisional) on December 5, 2019. High-interest burden, increase in competition, and high operating costs were some of the reasons cited for the reported losses.