Air India sacks CMD

Civil aviation secretary Naseem Zaidi and joint secretary Rohit Nandan will run the airline for now


Sweta Ranjan | August 12, 2011

After repeated calls for Air India chief Arvind Jadhav's ouster, the government on Thursday evening ordered his removal as the chairman and managing director of the ailing national carrier.

The interim charge till the formal announcement of his successor has been given to civil aviation secretary Naseem Zaidi and Rohit Nandan, a joint secretary in the ministry. Nandan, a 1982-batch Uttar Pradesh cadre IAS officer, assumes additional charge as the airline's managing director. He will reporting to Zaidi.

Nandan will be working with the AI management panel and is expected to work in close coordination with the ministry. Sources said that chiemicals secretary K Jose Cyriac, Cochin airport CEO V J Kurien and another senior ministry official had been considered for the post but the declined the offer.

Jadhav, appointed in May 2009, for a three-year tenure, failed to turn the airline's fortunes around. Instead, many quarters like the AI pilots' union Indian commercial pilots' association (ICPA) pinned the blame for most of it woes, including the failure of the merger of the erstwhile Indian Airlines and Air India. Jadhav has been under fire for mishandling the pilots strike in May this year which caused huge losses to the airline which was already in the red. There have been three major strikes by employees and pilots during his tenure.

Unpaid salaries for over three months sparked the May strike by the pilots. However, 40,000 employees of AI have not received their salary for June and July and performance linked incentives (PLI) from April to July yet.

The cash-strapped airline is laden with a cumulative debt of Rs. 40,000 crore that it incurred over aircraft acquisition, and as short-term loans to maintain its operations.

The recent comptroller and auditor general's (CAG) report on Air India also blamed the airline's management for lack of foresight and said that the decision to buy new aircrafts has proved to be a disaster for the airline, causing a loss of Rs. 200 crore.

Recently BJP also charged the prime minister's office (PMO) with manipulating the selection process for the Air India chief. Former aviation minister and BJP MP Rajiv Pratap Rudy questioned the appointment of Jadhav as the CMD of Air India. Based on an RTI reply, Rudy claimed that Jadhav was selected by the search committee despite having no "domain experience". He said that the PMO had "manipulatively subverted" the selection process to benefit Jadhav.

Jadhav took over as CMD of the national aviation corporation of India limited (NACIL) on May 4, 2009, for a three-year term and his tenure was scheduled to end in May, 2012.

Sources say that prime minister Manmohan Singh had a meeting with civil aviation minister Vayalar Ravi and senior officials of the ministry on Wednesday to Jadhav's replacement.




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