Is the appointment of Rajiv Bansal as Air India CMD a move to push divestment?

Ashwini Phadnis New Delhi | Updated on February 13, 2020

Rajiv Bansal   -  PTI

The appointment of Rajiv Bansal, currently Additional Secretary, Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, as Chairman and Managing Director, Air India is being viewed as a move to push the divestment of the state-owned airline. He replaces Ashwani Lohani.

The government initiated the divestment process on January 28 when it announced its plans of selling 100 per cent of its stake in Air India, Air India Express and 50 per cent stake in Air India SATS Airport Services Private Ltd.

A cross-section of retired Air India employees who had worked with Bansal during his earlier short stint as CMD in 2017 the state-owned carrier and interacted with him when he was associated with the Ministry of Civil Aviation told BusinessLine that he is a focussed and decisive person, who is quick to understand and take decisions.

“During his earlier tenure in Air India the airline’s on-time performance (OTP) touched 95 per cent. He had drawn up a phased plan to get aircraft which were on the ground due to lack of spares back in the air in a time bound fashion,” a former employee recalled. After Bansal left the airline OTP again slipped back and currently is at about 50 per cent.

A firm believer in hierarchy and protocol, Bansal was known to meet only the heads of department but was clear that if an employee issue could not be solved by the departmental head, they were free to approach him.

The last time Air India was given such a shock was during the 2009 Lok Sabha elections when the government removed Raghu Menon from his post of CMD and got in Arvind Jadhav who flagged the issue of the financial mess that the airline was in. This led to a turnaround plan being implemented and the airline making an attempt to survive.

This time with the divestment process having started getting a new CMD is hopefully a move which will benefit the government taking forward the divestment process.

Published on February 14, 2020

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