New Delhi owes Air India Rs3.25b for VVIP flights

Chartered aircraft were for the president, the vice-president and the prime minister for their visits abroad

New Delhi: The government owes over Rs3.25 billion (Dh183.4 million) to cash-strapped Air India with bills pending for VVIP chartered flights to foreign countries, according to an RTI response.

The national carrier, which is on the verge of being privatised, has provided details of amounts owed by various ministries responsible for the VVIP visits in its latest response to the information sought by Commodore (retd) Lokesh Batra.

The details provided in the response dated March 8 shows that Rs3.25 billion was outstanding as of January 31, 2018.

Of the total pending bills, Rs840 million had been carried forward from last financial year while the remaining Rs2.41 billion had been incurred this year.

The chartered aircraft for VVIPs — the President, the Vice-President and the Prime Minister — for their visits abroad are provided by Air India, which modifies its commercial jets to suit the needs of the travelling dignitaries.

The bills for these aircraft are to be paid from the exchequer by the Defence Ministry, the Ministry of External Affairs Ministry, the Prime Minister’s Office and the Cabinet Secretariat.

The response from Air India revealed that the highest outstanding amount of Rs1.78 billion had been incurred by the External Affairs Ministry, followed by the Cabinet Secretriat and the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) (Rs1.28 billion), and the Defence Ministry (Rs184 million).

The reply stated that outstanding bills of Rs4.51 billion had been carried forward while bills of Rs5.53 billion had been generated this year — a total of Rs10.05 billion. Out of this, the government made a payment of Rs6.79 billion this year.

The payment of Rs6.79 billion crore includes Rs3.67 billion paid towards the Rs4.51 billion carried forward from last year and a Rs3.11 billion payment towards bills of Rs5.33 billion generated this year.

After the payments, the outstanding as of January 31, 2018 stood at Rs3.25 billion.

In a separate response dated March 5, three days before Air India’s reply, the Civil Aviation Ministry has said the total outstanding stood at Rs3.46 billion as of December 31, 2017.

In addition to the VVIP flights, the amount of Rs3.45 billion also includes outstanding bills of Rs209.66 million towards services offered to visiting dignitaries and evacuation missions.

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