Govt owes cash-strapped Air India over Rs 3.25 bn for VVIP flights

The government owes over Rs 3.25 billiion 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 pending bills towards 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 Rs 3.25 billiion worth of bills for VVIP charter flights are pending as on January 31, 2018.

Of the total pending bills, Rs 840 million have been carried forward from last financial year while the remaining Rs 2.41 billion are from bills generated 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 said that the highest outstanding amount of Rs 1.78 billion was due from the External Affairs Ministry, followed by the Cabinet Secretriat and the PMO (Rs 1.28 billion), and the Defence Ministry (Rs 184 million).

The reply stated that outstanding bills of Rs 4.51 billion were carried forward while bills of Rs 5.53 billion were generated this year -- a total of Rs 10.04 billion. Out of this, the government made a payment of Rs 6.78 billion this year.

The payment of Rs 6.78 billion includes Rs 3.67 billion paid towards Rs 4.51 billion bills carried forward from last year and Rs 3.11 billion payment towards bills of Rs 5.33 billion generated this year.

After the payment, the outstanding as on January 31, 2018 stands at Rs 3.25 billion.

In a separate response dated March 5, three days before Air India's reply, the Civil Aviation Ministry has said the total outstanding bills to be Rs 3.45 billion as on December 31, 2017.

In addition to the VVIP flights, the amount of 3.45 billion also includes outstanding bills of Rs 209 million towards services offered to visiting dignitaries and evacuation missions.

In its response, Air India has given outstanding bills only for VVIP flights till January 31, 2018.

The response provided by the Civil Aviation Ministry also includes a break up of outstanding amount towards various ministries and details of invoices which shows that out of outstanding invoices of Rs 1.8 billion towards flights of the President, Rs 1.74 billion was paid and Rs 80 million was pending.

In the case of the Vice President, out of outstanding invoices of Rs 4.14 billion, Rs 2.16 billion was paid and payment of Rs 1.98 billion was yet to be made as on December 31, 2017, it said.

For the visits of the Prime Minister, out of total outstanding invoices of Rs 2.72 billion, Rs 1.54 billion was paid while a payment of Rs 1.18 billion was still awaited, it said.

In addition to the services for the VVIP flights, the bills of Rs 115 million for daring Air India operations to evacuate Indian citizens from Cairo, Iraq, and Malta (for citizens stuck in Libya) between 2011 and 2014 are still pending with the MEA, the civil aviation ministry said.

A bill of Rs 23 lakh for the fuel charges of the flight to the United States carrying relief material in the aftermath of Katrina hurricane in September 2005 is also pending with the Defence Ministry, it said.

Bills worth Rs 93.76 million are also pending towards flights for various dignitaries including the heads of the states, the ministry said.