India Insight

Air India: should we shut it down?

Imagine yourself as the chief of an airline company. Here’s how things look there at a glance:

- You’re running an accumulated loss of 200 billion rupees (about $3.6 billion)

- You employ some of the best-paid pilots in the world. They have been known to go on strike whenever they want.

- You have 27,000 employees and 122 airplanes, the highest ratio of employees to aircraft in the world.

- You’ve been losing money for years.

You run Air India.

Newspaper reporters have been writing for years about who and what are responsible for this state of affairs. Columnists have rumbled on at length about why things are as they are. What nobody has asked: Why is Air India flying at all?

Kingfisher situation an example of India’s free market/welfare state identity crisis

Bailout. A term which till recently was alien to India.

It was something the West did, to save their big financial institutions which had grown too big too fast and had squandered their cash positions while betting on complex instruments that even they did not fully understand.

India, and largely Asia, was rather different. We were the growth engines of the world. The Asian giants would prevent the global meltdown from getting worse and would reverse it eventually, or so went the perception.

Three years on and as the Greek crisis looms, the major Asian economies and their counterparts from around the world are still pondering on how to prevent the problems in Europe from spreading worldwide.