“Only the Sena can make such statements.” This is what civil aviation minister Ajit Singh had to say to the Shiv Sena’s threat of not allowing flights to take off from the Mumbai airport if national-carrier Air India shifts its headquarters to Delhi.
Explaining the rationale behind the move, Singh said that as Air India has a hub as well as a registered office in New Delhi with most of its subsidiaries are based there, it makes more sense to operate from there.
Also, as most of the stakeholders from the aviation industry —including the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, Airports Economic Regulatory Authority and the civil aviation ministry, and environment and forests ministries — are based in the capital, it will be easier for the top management to keep in touch with them, Singh said.
“More than 100 Air India officials commute to New Delhi from Mumbai daily for some work or the other. It would make more sense to cut down on that travelling and the cost associated with it” Singh said.
Reacting to Singh’s comment, Rajya Sabha MP and Sena spokesperson Sanjay Raut said, “He will come to know soon.”
The Sena alleges that the shift is a conspiracy to reduce the importance of Mumbai and that it will leave many Mahrashtrians jobless. The Sena had threatened that their union members at the airport would stand on the runway and stop planes from flying if their demand is not met.
The national carrier that was ridden with a debt of over Rs43,700 crore till last year decided to monetise around 105 properties in India, including its headquarters at Nariman Point apart from a handful of them in Tokyo and London.
The sea facing 23-floor Air India building, with each floor measuring at least 10,800 sqft, is located in the upmarket commercial hub of South Mumbai. The airline is expected to hold back the last three floors of the building for itself, while leasing out the rest for commercial exploitation. Several banks, corporate houses and public sector companies have shown interest in the properties.