Our Bureau

New Delhi, May 5

THE Minister for Civil Aviation, Mr Praful Patel, said that the decision of Air India (AI) to acquire new aircraft was based on the techno-economic parameters and not on geo-political considerations. "The Ministry gave no directives to the airline," Mr Patel said at a press conference.

A day after losing the contract for supplying 50 aircraft to the US-based aircraft manufacturer, Boeing, the European aircraft consortium, Airbus Industrie asked that all the papers connected with the deal be sent to the Central Vigilance Commissioner (CVC). On April 26 this year the AI board decided to purchase 50 aircraft at a deal valued at more than Rs 30,000 crore.

The Minister said that in order to bring about greater transparency in the aircraft acquisition process an "over sight committee" has been set up to vet the 43-Airbus fleet acquisition programme of Indian Airlines (IA), and added that the same procedure would be followed in the multi-billion dollar acquisition plan of AI.

The Ministry was willing to "cooperate, investigate and take remedial measures if necessary" on issues raised by Members of Parliament on the aircraft acquisition deal of the two state-owned airlines, Mr Patel said. The Minister pointed out that there was already an institutional mechanism in the Government for procuring "anything from hairpins to nuclear reactors" that includes checks and balances for clearances from the CVC and Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG).

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated May 6, 2005)
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