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NEW DELHI : The interest of Air India employees will be safeguarded in accordance with the guidance of the Department of Investment and Public Asset Management, Union Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said on Wednesday.

The disinvestment process of Air India, which had a total debt of over 38,366 crore in the last fiscal -- is in progress.

"The interest of the employees of Air India will be safeguarded in accordance with the guidance of the Department of Investment and Public Asset Management, Ministry of Finance and same will be reflected in the Share Purchase Agreement to be signed with new owner post disinvestment," Puri said in a written reply to the Rajya Sabha.

The civil aviation minister was responding to a query on whether current employees of Air India will remain employed with the airline post its strategic disinvestment.

The Preliminary Information Memorandum (PIM) for inviting Expression of Interest (EoI) for strategic disinvestment of the government's 100% stakes in Air India and Air India Express and 50% shareholding in Air India SATS was issued on January 27, 2020.

In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, the EoI deadline was extended from time to time and the last date was December 14, 2020.

As per audited accounts of FY 2019-20 (provisional), the airline's total debt was 38,366.39 crore. "The above amount is after the transfer of debt amounting to 22,064 crore during the FY 2019-20 to Air India Assets Holding Limited being a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV)," Puri said.

In another written reply, the minister said that as on December 31, 2020, the airline's total dues against various government departments on accounts of airfare, "including dues towards VVIP Operations were 498.17 crore".

"Usually, the credit period for Government of India Departments varies from 15 to 30 days from the receipt of invoice and no interest is paid to Air India in case of non-payment within the credit period," he said.

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