Prannoy Roy

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Prannoy Roy

On India Decides: Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel on the state of Indian airports and upgrading air traffic infrastructure. Here's the full transcript of the interview:

Prannoy Roy: Well joining us now, we're lucky to have the Minister of Civil Aviation Mr Praful Patel. Sir, thank you very much for joining us. Sir, now airports, the hardware is terribly impressive but airports are more than just hardware, there's immigration - the attitude of the immigration officers, training and upgrading the software skills, is that also going to be world class, or is it only hardware?
Praful Patel: Well I think you're right and it's very important and considering what immigration and customs used to be a few years ago, I think it has come a long way. And I agree with you that while we make all these wonderful and great facilities, it can be matched only with the proper manning of these airports. And I would agree, and we would do everything possible to make the total experience, including the human interface to be as comfortable and to be as, I would say, efficient as possible. We will look into it and I think, especially Mumbai airport, of late, has come in for a great deal of praise and appreciation from the travelling public in the way the immigration and customs is being handled, not to say that Delhi is far behind, but I'm sure we will look into that aspect also.

Prannoy Roy: That's very reassuring. In fact, everybody wants to know about Mumbai airport, Sir. Is it going to be as good as this Delhi airport, when will it be ready, is it going to be on time?
Praful Patel: Well Mumbai and Delhi are going to be no different in terms of the standards and the state-of-the-art terminals. It's only a question because Mumbai, because of it's peculiar problems of rehab of large number of people who live in the airport vicinity - that work is going on. In fact, one of the most impressive things that is going to happen is almost 20,000 slum dwellers are going to move into permanent, very good, high quality housing, just 2 km away from the airport and that is the first of, of course, the many more who will be moving in a phased manner. But, certainly, Mumbai airport about 18 months away from Delhi in terms of completion and will truly be world class.

Prannoy Roy: Sir, one more issue about the Air India merger - you know recently it has come under criticism by a group in Parliament that was looking into it, but mergers, assessing them is a very technical business. Everybody feels that did this group really have the know-how to assess whether a merger is working or not.
Praful Patel: Well, I agree with you. I do concede that the merger could have been better executed and implemented. There has been even, I would say, kind of a sabotage of sorts from within. People not really wanting to see it being implemented well, but the basic concept, this has, you know, been going on since the time of JRD Tata and a couple of times in between, the government did attempt, well meaning people, all have, especially when it makes business sense, economic sense and technical sense. I think there are no two opinions about whether the merger was required or not. In fact, even when this government took a decision, it first went to a committee of secretaries, it went to a group of ministers, it was guided by a professional company like Accenture and it was not taken like a knee-jerk decision. It was well thought out, well-planned, and it made immense economic sense. Well, I don't want to comment on the people who have given a different opinion; it's for them to judge. But, I can certainly say that the government took a conscious decision, based on valid and sound technical inputs and I think the intentions were good and maybe the execution has not been up to the government's or people's expectations.

Prannoy Roy: Could have been better. I've got to ask you, everybody always asks this, when is Air India going to be privatized..Oops, not allowed to say that word ! Disinvestment of Air India - will it ever happen?
Praful Patel: Well, I cannot speak about policy until some decision is taken by the government, but I can only say a personal little bit of an opinion, that most national carriers across the world have not done very well. Considering that, Air India has still come a long, long way. (It) has been able to retain its position as a national carrier. Of course, competition is there, it's not easy for them. I can only say that, some day maybe, government may take a different decision. But as of today, as of now, we intend to run it as a national carrier, run state owned, and we will do our best to do whatever is necessary.

Prannoy Roy: At least some day it may happen! Some reassuring words there, but thank you very much for joining us Mr. Praful Patel.
10 years ago

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