Air-India, our national airline was once the erstwhile ruler of the skies. It’s mascot, the Maharaja evoked memories of passengers being treated like royalty & they were.
In a world where other airlines were reducing baggage allowances, Air-India would allow passengers to carry their life with them. There are tales of Gulf returnees being served the finest beverages to boost their spirits, as they celebrated their return home. In-flight catering was better than their competition, while they continued to use proper, fine-steel cutlery, when the world had switched to cheap plastic.
Tales like this, seldom make the news. What do are reports of chronic flight delays, non-communicative staff, and shortage of flying crew and so on. With each news break-out, the clamour for selling off the Maharaja raises a notch.
Finance Minister, Shri Arun Jaitley when speaking at the World Economic Forum meet in Delhi, earlier this week, is said to have dropped hints that at least some public sector units (PSU’s) have to be privatized. Business Standard quotes him saying that there are PSU’s that’d do better in private hands, since they’re being kept alive only on government support, which isn’t a viable long term option. The Economic Times quotes him to have said that with many a PSU on the verge of shut-down due to bankruptcy; privatization could be the only way to save thousands of people from losing their jobs. Firstpost has a nice headline for their report, which quotes FM wants to sell bleeding PSU ulcers & that he should begin with Air India, BSNL & MTNL.
Old timers at AI say that it is perhaps too late to save the Maharaja. Informal consensus is that it is only a matter of time & rumours are, that big money has been pledged to drive down the value of Air-India. So when the time comes, the ‘right’ competition can pick up the dulled out jewels for a pittance, polish them after a while, or use them to protect their own empire.
To me, Air-India has been mismanaged for a long time now. If it should have been sold off, it should have been done years ago, when the airline was profitable. Instead, the government owner-management & political vultures have & continue their criminal mishandling of the Maharaja, thereby driving him to a miserable and pitiful death. If it is to survive & thrive, it needs to be freed from the shackles of political interference & a few jabs of adrenalin together with well-planned, time-bound, action plans, on a continuous drip.
The nation is about to lose its most prized gems & the genius is that everyone thinks that it is good riddance to bad rubbish.