'Air India merger on paper only'

Sources within aviation ministry react to Justice Dharmadhikari's report that mentions five years after Air India and Indian Airlines were merged into a single entity, both airlines continue to function separately with few steps being taken to form a single unit

Justice DM Dharmadhikari, with his three-member panel, submitted their report on the integration of the Air India employees with erstwhile Indian Airline employees to Civil Aviation minister Ajit Singh yesterday, five years after the two airlines were merged with each other.

Fresh Findings: (Retired) Justice Dharmadhikari presents the report on
Air India HR issues to the Union Minister for Civil Aviation Ajit Singh, in
New Delhi yesterday.

According to top sources inside the civil aviation ministry, the 100-page report has mentioned that since 2007 when the two state-run airlines merged, the two have not functioned as a single entity.

The findings reflected that five years on, no concrete steps have been taken towards staff integration or for operations. "Justice DM Dharmadhikari, submitted his report on Tuesday. On the basis of its findings it has made some serious recommendations on various aspects including staff integration in the country's national carrier.

The report has categorically asked Air India management to focus on staff integration on the basis of recommendations made," said a ministry official on condition of anonymity.

Sources inside Air India too agree with the findings of the report stating that both the airlines function as two different entities. "The merger is only on paper not in operation. On the ground despite being merged, the airline functions as two different entities. In fact, the pilots from the Indian Pilots Guild (IPG) that operate Air India flights continue to operate on the Boeing aircraft while Indian Airline pilots from the Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA) operate on the Airbus fleet. Not a single pilot has been changed and it's the same story with cabin crewmembers and personnel from other departments. Moreover, Air India staff work for five days whereas Indian Airlines staff members work for six days," said a source.

When MiD DAY contacted Justice Dharmadhikari, he refused to comment. "I am busy with something, I cannot talk now," he said. While Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh said, "We've received the report. We'll study the recommendations and do whatever that needs to be done."

Captain Mohan Ranganathan, a former Air India pilot and aviation expert said, "I believe that no concrete step was taken by the management to address the problems including staff integration, which further increased the problem. The mismanagement increased after the merger and the people who were responsible for the entire mess were never held accountable."
Captain D S Mathur former MD of Air India said, "First of all there was no need to do it as both airlines were owned by the government. Instead they should have made it a holding company bringing the two airlines under the same umbrella where the two airlines would have operated with two different tasks."

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