The decision to look for an outside professional to head the merged Air India is welcome. There is no need to keep top public sector jobs reserved for insiders, especially when specialist industry insight is essential.
There is another reason why this development is so interesting. Till recently, the flow of senior executives in newly-open sectors such as insurance, airlines, telecom and power was a one-way affair. The men and women who built and manned the Nehruvian temples of modern India were eagerly sought out by new private players. And with good reason. There was little expertise outside the public sector.
It is possible that the tide may turn now. There are still hordes of top-class managers in the public sector, but it is quite natural that the overall shortage of skilled labour will be felt by government companies as well. The challenge will be to release these jobs from the twin binds of low salaries and closed labour markets.