State-run Air India, which enjoyed a monopoly in the country till the deregulation of the aviation sector in 1991, is besieged by ballooning debt and a litany of woes, pushing it to the brink of collapse.

Unless, of course, the central government steps in to bail out the national flag carrier.

Air India is now seeking a 39.81 billion rupees package from the state, though the airline has been asked to come out with a plan of action to make its existence viable.

The money may come as federal aid in the form of equity and loan.

But some say the airline needs a credible action plan to rescue it.

The civil aviation ministry says the 31,000 workforce should be trimmed to keep it viable. Estimates put the average number of employees per aircraft at nearly 1:230, while as per international standards, an airline needs 1:100 -150 employees.

Others question whether the ministry, which presides over the National Aviation Company Ltd created to run the merged Indian and Air India, can absolve itself from the faultlines posed by the bloated workforce.