The minister demands it

The minister demands it

When it comes to revving up the economy, ministers have ideas that are uncommonly similar.

Last week finance minister P. Chidambaram asked companies to cut prices. Civil aviation minister Praful Patel was quick to take the cue and asked airline companies to reduce airfares.

Jet Airways and Kingfisher Airlines refused to heed his call. That left Air India to say Yes?Minister.?The?beleaguered state carrier should say no.

For Air India, a company with wobbly finances and uncertain profits, any cuts in airfare are sure to worsen its financial health. The minister should know there would be no demand pick-up with such a fare cut. This strategy would have worked for a healthy airline. But for an airline with a huge staff strength, an ageing fleet and large maintenance costs, it can only mean a reduction in revenues. The burden of these losses will fall on taxpayers. There is no reason why they should bear them.

Patel should stick to his domain: policy formulation and execution. Airfares are an operational matter, best left to the management of the company. The public sector in general has been hobbled by such behaviour on the part of ministers. About time it was stopped.