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Ravi defends AI aircraft purchase decision

New Delhi: Notwithstanding the criticism by CAG over the acquisition of aircraft for Air India, Civil Aviation minister Vayalar Ravi on Tuesday defended the decision, saying due process was followed and that it was needed to replace the ageing fleet of the national carrier.

Ravi said the order for the acquisition was placed after a series of negotiations, and only after the decision passed through four stages of discussion, including by a Group of Ministers and by an oversight committee appointed by the Prime Minister.

The Comptroller and Auditor General has come down heavily on the Ministry over the decision to acquire 111 planes through debt, calling it "a recipe for disaster" besides terming the merger of the two national carriers "ill-timed".

While defending the decision, Ravi also pointed out that the process of acquisition had started in 2002 during the NDA government`s tenure.

"Indians need to travel abroad and they need Air India as well as other carriers. The (erstwhile) Indian Airlines aircraft were old and the (former) Air India fleet was also not that good. It was necessary to go for acquisition," he told reporters on the sidelines of a function.

He said the process of acquisition started in 2002 and the proposal was sent to the ministry in January 2004, and when the new UPA government assumed office later that year it went ahead with the process.

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Ravi said the process which started in 2002 went through a series of negotiations and the decision also passed through four stages before the order was finalised.

"It was taken up by the GoM, by the Prime Minister appointed oversight committee, as well as the Public Investment Board. The discussions went on at all levels," he said.

Asked about the status of the delayed 27 Boeing 787 aircraft deal, he did not give a straight answer.

"I don`t know about the money (needed to buy the aircraft), the order has been delayed for three years during which bank interest on the loan has to be paid. I am not saying it is cancelled, nor do I say that it is in process," he said.

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