Friday, 03 February 2023

Government employees not compulsory to fly by Air India

Government employees not compulsory to fly by Air India

The Centre government will end Air India's monopoly over flying millions of government employees after its privatization. However, a large part of the employee's ticketing requirements will be controlled by three state-owned companies.

The companies will likely earn ticketing charges and agency commissions from the massive pool of government employees, approximately to run into a few million.

On 2nd November, Tuhin Kanta Panda, department of investment and public asset management secretary, said it would no longer be compulsory for government employees to travel by Air India after its privatization.

Air India also stopped offering ministries credit for purchasing air tickets, prompting the finance ministry to ask all ministries to clear the airline's dues. According to the RTI query that was replied to in October this year, the Centre's total dues to Air India stood at ₹300 crores for both VVIP flights and travel by officials. ₹34 crores were due for VVIP flights, and ₹269 crores for tickets of the executive.

The old system required government employees to book with the former national carrier in sectors it serviced. "For other places, where there were no Air India [flights] or its subsidiaries, we had to take prior permission for buying tickets," said a senior government official, who didn't wish to be named.

That's changed now, but three state-owned firms, Ashoka Travels, Balmer Lawrie, and Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC), will continue to operate all ticket bookings for government employees. Balmer Lawrie, a company under the petroleum ministry, provides logistics support and a host of other businesses.

At the same time, Ashoka Travels and Tours Ltd is a subsidiary of (ITDC) India Tourism Development Corporation.

Government employees not compulsory to fly by Air India 1pixabay image

Read More: Air India acquired by Tata Sons in ₹ 18,000 Crore

The third organization, IRCTC, operates a travel portal and issue ticket catering and booking for Indian Railways. Both Balmer Lawrie and IRCTC have listed companies.

India has eight airlines in various sections apart from some regional carriers primarily focused on a few routes under the government's Udaan scheme.

The Lok Sabha secretariat circular dated 5th November said, "All the officers are thereby requested to purchase air tickets in cash from Air India/Indian Airlines counter or from three agents, i.e. Balmer Lawrie and Co. Ashoka Travels and Tours Ltd and IRCTC, authorised by the ministry of finance for the official journeys to be performed."

Lok Sabha circular, which mentions the General Finance Rules, also told officials that all air ticket bills must be submitted within a specific period.

It added.

"Henceforth, no request to honour the TA/DA claim after the stipulated time limit shall be entertained in any case,"

Air India runs a ticket counter inside Parliament to cater to Members of Parliaments.

The center governed sold the languishing Air India airlines to Tata Sons last month. Tata Sons bought Air India for ₹18,000 crores in a deal that will no longer see hefty bailout packages for the airline widely seen as a burden on the exchequer.

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