New Delhi: The much-delayed privatisation of Air India is likely to be completed in the first half of this year, said Union Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri on Saturday. “We’ve decided that Air India will be 100 per cent disinvested. The choice isn’t between disinvestment and non-disinvestment. It’s between disinvestment and closing down. Air India is a first-rate asset but has an accumulated debt of Rs 60,000 crore. It is liable to be sold,” Puri told news agency ANI.Also Read - Rakesh Jhunjhunwala-Backed Akasa Air Unveils Picture of Boeing 737 Max Plane

“At a meeting on Monday, it was decided that the government will close the financial bids within 64 days,” Puri said, adding that there were multiple bidders and some have been shortlisted. He added that earlier attempts at privatisation were not successful because those attempts were “half hearted”. The airline, which did not attract any buyer for long has now witnessed Tata Sons and SpiceJet’s promoter Ajay Singh come up as potential bidders, reports IANS quoting industry sources. Also Read - Bengaluru Bound Air India Flight Makes Emergency Landing At Mumbai Airport After Midair Engine Shutdown

Other Public sector undertakings (PSUs) like Pawan Hans disinvestment is also under process, the minister added. The minister also said that the second wave of COVID-19 has delayed airlines being allowed to operate at 100 per cent capacity that was planned to happen from the start of the summer schedule this month-end. But for now, there are no questions to curtail the domestic operations, he added. Also Read - Air India Bans Smoking, Consumption of Intoxicating Substances at Workplace. Read Full Statement

He further said that flights are the safest mode to travel, adding that the authorities have taken cognisance for defaulters who are not following COVID-19 protocol on board.

(With inputs from agencies)