New Delhi: Indicating that the Air India disinvestment plan is very much on even in the middle of the general elections, the government wants almost 700 airline employees in the posh Vasant Vihar colony in south Delhi to look for alternate accommodation.
There are a total 810 flats in the Vasant Vihar housing colony for Air India employees out of which 676 flats are currently occupied.
Cash-starved Air India has, however, proposed to ease the burden of its employees who have to vacate the company’s residential complex which is going under the hammer.
Taking a compassionate view of the forced shifting, the national carrier has proposed to help employees in finding suitable accommodation on rent, subsidise the rent lease amount in the range of Rs 5,000 to Rs 25,000 (depending upon the entitlement), bear the brokerage charge and pay tariff for transporting household goods.
Air India is of the view that finding accommodation would be difficult for its employees, given that many have no accommodation in Delhi or are on transfer from other stations. Further, children of many employees are in nearby schools making shift an uphill task.
“It has been proposed that a committee would be formed to carry out market survey and find suitable accommodation. It has been decided that in case, the company enters into leasing agreement with landlord on behalf of employees, no house rent allowance (HRA) and license fee would be paid by it,” said an official source.
The sales of various Air India properties is part of the government’s plan to cut the heavy debt of the airline. Accordingly, it has invited bids for plots, flats and building across various cities.
The government hopes to mop up about Rs 9,000 crore by selling off these assets. A reduced debt will ensure better valuation for the airline as and when the disinvestment process takes off.
The airline currently has a total debt of about Rs 55,000 crore which includes long-term loan taken for aircraft acquisition and working capital loans.
A major chunk of these loans is proposed to be transferred to a special purpose vehicle — Air India Asset Holding Company. The ministerial panel, headed by Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, had late last year approved transferring Rs 29,000 crore debt to the newly-formed holding company.
“We expect the transfer of debt to happen by June-end,” a senior Air India official said.
The government had earlier last year proposed to sell 76 per cent equity share capital of the national carrier as well as transfer the management control to private players. The disinvestment plan, however, proved to be a damp squib with no private party submitting expression of interest (EoI) by May 31, the cut-off date.
In the wake of poor interest level, impending general elections and rising fuel prices, the ministerial panel in June decided to put the plan to put on hold.