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PSUs have a place in the country: Pusapati

LiveMint logoLiveMint 29-05-2014 Tarun Shukla

New Delhi: State-run firms have a place in India even as there was a need for a healthy private sector, the civil aviation minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju Pusapati, said on Thursday.

“There are private airlines and there is a public sector company. Public sector does have a place and a lot of countries have public sector companies. As of now, we are trying to formulate our views,” Pusapati said, responding to a question on whether Air India will be privatized by the new government. “I am not closed to any idea,” he said.

Pusapati said he’ll be looking at all the issues before him.

State-owned firms “in several countries do function rather well. Somehow for us, it hasn’t happened that way... but we have to examine all aspects... Air India is a public sector undertaking. It has its pluses and minuses. How to develop it, we have to look into”, he said.

Pusapati has met Air India’s chairman Rohit Nandan, the Airports Economic Regulatory Authority (AERA) chairperson Yashwant Bhave, the director general of civil aviation Prabhat Kumar and civil aviation secretary Ashok Lavasa, who called upon the new minister in the capital on Wednesday.

Pusapati said he has not invited airlines and airport owners for a meeting but would be happy to meet them soon.

Asked whether the new dispensation would probe controversial decisions taken by the previous government including the Jet Airways-Etihad deal and grant of hundreds of bilateral air rights to foreign countries, Pusapati said, “There is no point in dissecting or doing a postmortem. We have to first formulate our own thinking about the issues,” he said.

“I will not prosecute anyone neither protect anyone.”

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Subramanian Swamy has approached courts to halt the launch of two new airlines —AirAsia India and Tata-SIA Airlines Ltd—over what he calls a faulty interpretation of the policy of the government.

Some of Indian airlines including IndiGo has also gone to the courts under the aegis of lobbying group Federation of Indian Airlines (FIA) challenging the entry of the airlines.

Pusapati was non-committal on whether he will ask Swamy to change his stand now with airlines like AirAsia and Tata-SIA having already made investments in the country.

He said he would first like to understand what Swamy’s perspectives were.

“We should not add anymore to that acrimony,” Pusapati said on whether he would like to take steps to douse peaking corporate airline rivalry against the new entrants.

The civil aviation minister was, however, forthcoming on whether the GMR Infrastructure Ltd-run Hyderabad’s Rajiv Gandhi Airport could be renamed after former Andhra Pradesh chief minister N.T. Rama Rao.

“If we have the opportunity, we will push it through,” Pusapati said. He said the decision to change the name was taken “against the wishes of the Telugu-speaking people. But the Telugu-speaking people are now being divided into the two states from June. N.T. Rama Rao’s name should be retained.”

While the airport is called Rajiv Gandhi International Airport, the toll road leading to it from the city is named after the former prime minister P.V. Narasimha Rao, who was a Telugu born in Lakkampally village in Warangal district of Andhra Pradesh.

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