Prime Minister's Office Owes 458 Cr To Air India For Air Travel Expenses
The government owes Rs 797.95 crore to debt-ridden Air India as of September 20, 2019, a report revealed. The outstanding amount is for the flights operated for VVIPs, including the Prime Minister, President, Vice President, and foreign dignitaries.
More than half the amount, i.e. Rs 458.959 crore, is owed to Prime Minister’s office, according to a report published by The Week.
The report comes amid recent remarks by Home Minister Amit Shah wherein he claimed that PM Modi makes cost-cutting his topmost personal priority.
The government owed Rs 598.55 crore to the national carrier, six months ago. The number spiked by Rs 200 crore after March 2019.
Air India responded in detail that the total invoice raised for the Prime Minister’s travels alone stood at Rs 1,321.41 crore. Of this, bills amounting to Rs 862.45 crore were cleared by the government, leaving Rs 458.959 crore as the outstanding amount.
The cost of the President’s air travel stood at Rs 539.35 crore. Of this, the defence ministry, which handles the travel bills of the President, paid Rs 295.40 crore, leaving an outstanding amount of Rs 243.950 crore.
The Vice President owed Rs 779.40 crore to Air India, of which Rs 706.69 crore has been cleared, and the outstanding amount yet to be paid is Rs 72.7 crore.
The national carrier is also expecting a payment of Rs 9.67 crore for evacuation flight.
Other flights operated by the Air India generated a billing of Rs 21.57 crore, of which Rs 8.91 crore was paid and Rs 12.656 crore is pending.
This outstanding amount and the delay in payment by the Government of India for VVIPs flights was also noted by the Comptroller and Auditor General, in its Report 40 of 2016 on Commercial Civil Aviation Performance Audit.
“AIL had earmarked three B747-400 aircraft for the sole purpose of operating special extra section flights for VVIP operations. Audit noticed that dues worth 452.54 crores towards the operation of VVIP flights during 2011- 12 to 2014-15 were pending. In addition, Rs 15.32 crore was due from the Ministry of External Affairs for the evacuation flight services provided from June 2006 to November 2014. The total unpaid dues amounted to Rs 467.86 crore,” the CAG had said on the convention.
The information was provided to RTI activist Commodore Lokesh Batra (Retd) after a query filed by him to Air India under the Right To Information Act.
Air Indian is battling a massive cash crunch as National carrier reported net losses of Rs 8,400 crore in 2018-19, up 57 per cent from Rs 5,337 crore in 2017-18. The loss in the last financial year incurred due to elevated ATF (aviation turbine fuel) prices, rupee depreciation, airspace closure over Pakistan and debt servicing.