New Delhi: A committee headed by cabinet secretary K.M. Chandrasekhar has shortlisted candidates for the top post at National Aviation Co. of India Ltd that operates Air India at a meeting held on Friday.
The meeting was initially supposed to shortlist people for proposed airports regulator Airports Economic Regulatory Authority (Aera).
However, the government in the meanwhile decided to replace the incumbent chairman and managing director of the state-owned airline, Raghu Menon. The reasons for the government’s decision is still unclear.
The names of the shortlisted candidates were not made public but a government official said that a bureaucrat of the rank of a joint secretary is likely to be given interim charge to head the carrier till a final selection is made.
Another government official confirmed the development. Both declined to be named.
“It is a crisis,” the first official said. He added that the government has little time left to select a new chief executive given the cumbersome process that has to be followed to select a public sector enterprise officer. This could even mean that a final decision may be left to the next government in case the process cannot be completed by 16 May, he said.
The leadership crisis comes at a time when the country’s largest airline by fleet size is battling reduced passenger counts, high losses and an ongoing merger.
T.K.A. Nair, principal secretary to the Prime Minister, and civil aviation secretary M. Madhavan Nambiar also attended the meeting, which also shortlisted about a dozen names to head Aera.
Menon has been steering the airline after taking charge in 2008. He is on leave till 3 May, an official at the airline said, requesting anonymity.
Menon had in January shown interest in moving away from the carrier when he filed an application to take over as the head of Aera but did not re-apply when applications were asked afresh by the civil aviation ministry later.