No retrenchment in Air India, says aviation minister (Lead)

October 16th, 2008 - 4:00 pm ICT by IANS  

Hyderabad/New Delhi, Oct 16 (IANS) There will be no retrenchment of employees by state-owned carrier Air India, civil aviation minister Praful Patel said in Hyderabad Thursday. The statement came minutes after his ministry spokesman said in New Delhi that the airline would offer three to four years’ leave without pay to about 145,000 employees instead.”There will be no retrenchment in Air India,” Patel told reporters on the sidelines of a conference organised as part of India’s first civil aviation show India Aviation 2008.

“My sympathies are with those employees laid off by the private airlines but this is an issue that other ministries such as the labour ministry will have to deal with,” he said.

The statement came a day after India’s biggest private sector airlines, Jet Airways, announced it would retrench around 1,900 employees to cut operational costs.

A civil aviation ministry spokesperson said in New Delhi that Air India would not retrench staff, but could offer leave without pay for three to four years to 15,000 employees.

Those who take up the offer would be taken back if they wished, at the same designation and the last drawn salary, he added.

“Nacil (National Aviation Co of India Ltd that owns Air India) is not mulling any layoff. We are considering offering three to four years leave without pay package to people who opt for it; 15,000 employees are eligible,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

Air India’s total staff strength is around 23,000.

In Hyderabad, Patel said he hoped state governments would ensure there would be no law and order problems following the retrenchment of 1,900 employees announced by Jet.

Emphasising the importance of aviation infrastructure at the conference titled “India Aviation: Scaling new heights”, he said: “Some time in the ’60s, a US president had said ‘We don’t have good roads because we are rich. We are rich because we have good roads’. The same applies to India - we will be rich if we have good roads and also good aviation infrastructure.”

Patel went on to add: “We have not achieved our full economic potential because we have not built infrastructure. We have to make our airports passenger and cargo hubs that can become the drivers and engines of growth.”

The minister said India would be spending billions of dollars over the next few years not only to build airports through the public-private partnership route, but also on air traffic control, aviation security and aviation infrastructure.

“We need the whole gamut of aviation infrastructure,” said Patel.

“India will be spending $30 billion on airport modernisation,” said aviation secretary M. Madhavan Nambiar.

Although India is the ninth largest aviation market in the world, air travel penetration in the country is low with per capita trips standing at at 0.02, compared to 2.2 in the US and 1.2 in China.

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