The more important the documents the more likely they are to disappear. So, while ministry of civil aviation (MOCA) intends to shift the national carrier’s headquarters to Delhi from the iconic Air India Building at Nariman point, which might be leased out or even sold, top sources told this newspaper there is an impediment. The documents pertaining to proprietary rights of the building are missing. Not only that: sources revealed that ownership papers of Airline House in Delhi have vanished as well.
The fact came to light in May 2011, a short while after a ten-day strike by AI pilots ended. The protest added to the descending fortunes of the beleaguered carrier and to run the show immediate infusion of Rs 400 crore was required. Top government banks refused to lend because of the prevailing situation.
At last, a leading private bank agreed to sanction the loan.
“Air India Building at Nariman Point was to be kept as collateral. Most of the formalities were completed and a date was fixed for finalising the process. When the concerned department of the carrier was asked to keep the papers of Air India Building ready for the security, it informed that documents were not available,” top sources in the airline told this newspaper.
“It was later decided to go ahead with the deal by putting ‘Airline House’, Delhi as collateral but documents related to this property could not be found either and the deal fell through,” the sources added.
The then CMD, Air India, Arvind Jadhav even asked the concerned department to submit a status report on the matter, which was not followed up.
Jadhav and incumbent AI CMD Rohit Nandan did not respond to our calls and SMS.
Flying the nest
The move to shift Air India’s base of operations is part of monetising the carrier’s assets in India and abroad. Aviation Minister Ajit Singh took the decision as the merged airline (AI and IA) has maximum flights from Delhi’s terminal 3 (which is its primary hub now). Also, the Rs 30,000-crore government bailout the airline is supposed to get over eight years by meeting some milestones means its top brass has to spend more time in Delhi to interact with various ministries. No date has been finalised yet.