The government is looking at "alternatives" available to make Air India and other public sector units more competitive and profitable, minister of state for civil aviation Jayant Sinha has said.
A decision on the possible privatisation of the loss-making airline, which is surviving on taxpayers' money, is likely in three months. "Our objective is to transform the public sector carrier to a great global airline and we are doing whatever possible in this regard," Sinha told reporters in Jamshedpur on Saturday.
Asked why private airliners are operating more on profitable routes than Air India, Sinha said the government had made efforts to optimise route network based on viability during the last three years and was viewing new routes such as Washington DC, Copenhagen and Ranchi-Kolkata.
"We have made efforts to optimise route network on favourable routes with an intention to make the airline more competitive and profitable. Air India also procured new aircraft to achieve the goal," he said.
Union finance minister Arun Jaitley and civil aviation minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju last week discussed the future course for debt-ridden Air India, with senior officials indicating that a decision on privatisation will be taken within three months.
Sinha said the government's efforts had resulted in Air India, which was incurring loss for the past 10 years, to make Rs105 crore operating profit last year.
On the opposition's allegations that employment opportunities have drastically come down in the country during the last three years, Sinha said on the contrary, jobs had registered an increase in the organised sector.
He said the data in the unorganised sector was not clear even though the job opportunities increased in this sector too.
He said a committee had been formed to study the prevailing status of employment generated and the opportunities.
The minister claimed labourers were not available to work in projects under MNREGA as they moved on to other places to make more money.
Labourers in Ramgarh and Hazaribagh districts were not available for MNREGA, which pays Rs175 per day, as they were working in construction sites at wages ranging between Rs300 and Rs400 per day, he said.
Claiming that the development work is going on rapidly across sectors, Sinha said the government has decided to invest Rs8.5 lakh crore on railways, Rs8 lakh crore on infrastructure including roads, and Rs2 to 2.5 lakh crore on airports.