India's aviation ministry keeps Rs 1,450 crore unused even as Covid rages on

A Parliamentary panel apprehends significant underutilisation of the budgetary funds available with the MoCA

India's aviation ministry keeps Rs 1,450 crore unused even as Covid rages on
Planes at the Delhi airport. Image courtesy: Twitter/@DelhiAirport

The Covid-19 crisis has crippled the aviation sector, which has witnessed salary cuts and job losses to stay afloat. In this time of crisis, the ministry of civil aviation (MoCA) has managed to overlook the utilisation of budgetary allocation of a staggering Rs 1,450 crore for the financial year 2020-21. 

This has been recorded in the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture tabled in March 2021.

The report, in para 8.1, states the following, "The committee is distressed to note that the ministry has been able to spend only 64.9% of the enhanced RE allocation of Rs 4,131.63 crore, which means that the ministry has to spend Rs 1,450.78 crore in the remaining two months of the financial year 2020-21.

"The committee apprehends significant underutilisation of the budgetary funds available with the ministry. At a time when the government was facing major financial troubles on account of the coronavirus pandemic, the ministry received a considerable boost of 8.8% at RE 2020-21, as compared to BE 2020-21. 

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"Poor utilisation of the funds would lead to idling of funds which should have been avoided. The committee would like the ministry to take stock of the reasons which caused the slow pace of utilisation of funds and take corrective measures to ensure optimum utilisation of the allocated funds, during the financial year 2021-22."

The government had decided to roll back 5% of the Air India pilots' salary cuts after a substantial deduction in April 2020. The unions rejected the offer. In a letter to the airline's Chairman and Managing Director Rajiv Bansal, the Air India pilot unions said that the disproportionate unilateral pay cut imposed on pilots due to the Covid-19 pandemic since April 2020 amounts to a gross reduction of up to 58% of their salaries.

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"This cut has been carefully worded to slash our wages by more than half while insulating top management from any meaningful austerity contribution such as a fair percentage cut on gross emoluments which spreads the burden fairly," the unions said in the letter.

"We have gone above and beyond during this pandemic risking life and limb to ensure the success of Vande Bharat Mission (VBM). In spite of 171 pilots testing Covid-19 positive, operations continue to run smoothly even in the face of a resurgence of an even deadlier strain of Covid-19," they added.

While there is no accountability on the part of the government, a colossal waste in midst of the pandemic is criminal.