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Finance Ministry not giving Air India “unexamined figure”

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Beleaguered Air India may not get even half of the INR 800-crore it has sought from the government for flying VVIPs abroad, as the finance ministry thinks it is an “unexamined figure” . Economic Times said the cash-strapped national carrier , which has been unable to pay the April and May salaries of its 40,000 employees, had estimated an expenditure of INR 800 crore for flying VVIPs abroad over two years.Recently, the government released INR250 crore to the airline to clear a part of its fuel bills. “The finance ministry says the Rs 800 crore is an unexamined figure and has indicated that it will release only about INR 100 crore more. It has asked us to suggest cheaper alternatives to carry out VVIP operations ,” a senior official at the civil aviation ministry told the paper.The government was even looking into whether the air force would be a cheaper option for such operations, the official was quoted saying.”These are audited figures, which we have arrived at after following all operational standards,” a senior Air India official had said.The airline, which is INR 40,000 crore in debt, made losses of INR 5,500 crore last fiscal year. It has been asked by the finance ministry to produce an effective turnaround plan before more equity can be infused or a letter of comfort issued by the government, the report said.Since 2003, a specially designed and equipped Boeing 747-437 B has been used to fly the prime minister, president and the vice-president abroad. There are three A-330 aircraft permanently configured for VVIP movement. “A Boeing 777 could be a cheaper option for the government,” the aviation ministry official was quoted saying.

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