• Now, AI chief speaks out against watchdogs slowing decison-making

    More bureaucrats are now coming out openly to voice their concerns about taking decisions in a government set-up that can later be interpreted any which way by agencies like the CBI, CAG and CVC.

    Just over a week after coal secretary Anil Swarup voiced resentment in government circles over watchdogs turning roadblocks through a Facebook post, Air India chairman Ashwini Lohani has bared his heart too.

    “The dilemma of a public sector chief. That too of a complex, decayed yet live wire organisation like AI. Do I set it right even at the cost of self sacrifice…. Do I play safe and let the organisation sink. Or take major decisions and run the risk of being run down myself when my decisions would be dissected in hindsight?…. Perhaps there are no easy answers and I have to depend only on the voice of my conscience,” Lohani said in a Facebook post on Thursday.

    Earlier this week, Lohani said in his blog: “The role of the check posts, namely the vigilance and audit setups has to be reviewed and drastically curtailed. Malafide has to be handled with an iron hand, mistakes need to be merely glossed over. Trust in human beings has to be brought back…”

    Senior AI officials working closely with Lohani say private airline managements are able to quickly take decisions. “AI is competing with quick footed people like Naresh Goyal (of Jet), Rahul Bhatia and Aditya Ghosh (promoter and president of IndiGo) who are the big boys of Indian aviation. They take decisions over phone calls and implementation happens soon after. AI, on the other hand like all PSUs, has huge systems to follow. So its decision-making is not fast like the airlines it is competing with,” said an official.

    Also, bureaucrats running AI — whether in airline management or mandarins of the aviation ministry — are now scared of taking big ticket decisions to to avoid spending their retirement years in Tihar Jail. Most bureaucrats now want to ‘uneventfully’ (read indecisively) complete their tenure to avoid ‘problems’ with the watchdogs.

    “What really foxes me is the mess and the amount of indecision at all levels that must have gone into almost on a continuous basis to achieve the grand mess that we are saddled with today at the national carrier. Yes it is true that the typical staid way of functioning must have helped a lot, as that alone guarantees maintenance of status quo and hefty premium on non-deliverance,” Lohani’s blog earlier this week said.

    Sources say the time has come to take some big decisions at AI, like expanding its wide body fleet as the airline has major plans for adding new destinations in Europe, Africa and Americas. The fleet and network expansion will mean employing more people and opening offices abroad.

    “AI can either continue as it is or take a leap frog under the decisive leadership of PM Modi who has always favoured a strong public sector. Even divesting in AI will mean improving the airline first so that it can attract some buyers. Who will buy it in the current form?” said an employee. 

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