Rohit Nandan to be new Air India chief

Rohit Nandan to be new Air India chief

New Delhi: Rohit Nandan, a civil aviation ministry official, is set to be appointed head of Air India Ltd, replacing chairman and managing director (CMD) Arvind Jadhav, whose 23-month tenure has been marred by industrial strife and a deteriorating financial condition. The move came after a final round of discussions between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and aviation minister Vayalar Ravi on Thursday.

“Jadhav’s services are being terminated," said a top government official, who declined to be named. “Nandan is being appointed CMD temporarily."

A second government official said Nandan was expected to take over on Friday. A proposal for a joint management committee or two joint managing directors was dropped at the last minute to avoid duplication of command, this person, who too did not want to be identified, added.

Nandan is an Indian Administrative Service officer belonging to the 1982 batch.

Air India’s turnaround plan is being vetted by a group of officers and is expected to become the blueprint for further equity infusion into the debt-laden carrier. It has sought 3,000 crore in government support annually for the next 10 years to stay afloat. The airline is undergoing a government bailout.

Under Jadhav’s tenure, the airline made losses of about $1-1.5 billion ( 4,500-6,800 crore) annually. Air India has made an after-tax loss of about 6,994 crore and 5,552.44 crore in the last two fiscal years, respectively.

It has also seen multiple industrial disputes in this period. Last month, in a major embarrassment, the airline’s entry into Star Alliance was suspended, the first time this has happened in the grouping’s 14-year history.

Nandan will be the fifth chairman of the airline in four years since the carrier was merged and V. Thulasidas retired in 2008.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has blamed the Prime Minister’s Office for Jadhav’s appointment in 2009 after his candidature was rejected by a search committee in 2008.

“It is inevitable he has to go. His position there is untenable because of major financial losses and his incapacity post-merger to head the airline," said BJP member of Parliament Rajiv Pratap Rudy, referring to the merger of Indian Airlines with Air India in 2007. Rudy had written to the PM on Jadhav’s appointment last week.

Liz Mathew contributed to this story.

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