Jet-Etihad deal comes under scanner

    NEW DELHI (TIP): Alleging that the Jet- Etihad deal was being rushed through and the government agencies were not allowed to examine it in all its ramifications, the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on July 3 asked the Congress party-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government to order a Central Bureau of India (CBI) inquiry monitored by the Supreme Court to trace the manner in which the deal was carried out.

    The BJP has said that the deal was mired in all kinds of controversies as it was carried out in a “half-cooked” and “objectionable” manner and was “predicated” on the increase in number of seats to be made available. “This deal smacks of a scam. It is already stinking. There should be an inquiry into who is responsible. The manner in which the deal was concluded two days after the bilateral agreement with the UAE was signed and assigning them 37,000 additional seats clearly indicates that these two private parties — Jet Airways and Etihad — were fully aware of what the government was going to do,” BJP leader Yashwant Sinha said here in Delhi. “As a matter of fact, given the kind of agreement which they have concluded, in which there will be members on the board much in excess of what 24 per cent entitles them to, is raising all kinds of concerns. The government should order a CBI inquiry monitored by the Supreme Court to probe the manner in which this deal has been done,” Sinha added. Objections to the deal were first raised by a Parliamentary Standing Committee headed by Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Sitaram Yechury, followed up by senior Members of Parliament Jaswant Singh and Dinesh Trivedi, and Janata Party chairman Subramanian Swamy.

    The Parliamentarians have alleged that with the deal, Abu Dhabi will get thousands of new passengers on its routes to Europe, Africa and West Asia at the cost of Indian airports. Additionally, Prabodh Panda of the Communist Party of India (CPI) and BJP leader Nishikant Dubey have written to the Central Vigilance Commission, demanding to investigate the deal. “The deal has been struck just to benefit private players, which will hamper the interest of Air India. This has been done in violation of all norms and deliberately done to cause losses to the state-owned carrier.We have asked for a vigilance probe into the matter. Also profitable routes have been given away to private players at low rates. Delhi airport, which is attempting to emerge as an international hub, would also suffer at the cost of Abu Dhabi,” Panda said here.

    Both the bilateral agreement and the airline deal were announced on April 24 this year. Since then, the deal has run into trouble.With each passing day, the matter is getting complicated as more and more Indian political leaders are clamouring for a review of the deal. Last month, the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) had deferred a decision on clearing the Rs20.58 billion deal. According to industry experts, the deal is all set for a delay, probably much longer than expected by the two airlines. Sources have revealed that the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) does not want to be dragged into another 2G-like controversy, more so since the number of bilateral weekly seats between Abu Dhabi and Delhi were dramatically increased from 13,330 to 36,370 just before the deal.

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