New Delhi: At a time when the national carrier Air India is going through cash crunch, Union Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri on Tuesday stated that the airline has to be privatized as there is no other option.

“I had said earlier also, for us it is not an option, Air India has to be privatized,” he stated. He also added that the Central government is trying privatisation of Air India as quickly as possible.

“We do not become a slave to or victim of certain deadlines, we are doing it seriously. We are trying to do it (privatisation of Air India) as quickly as possible,” he added.

He said Air India over a period of time has now gathered debt which could be described as unsustainable.

Saying that some predatory pricing is happening in airfares, the minister said other airlines can shut down if it continues.

Addressing a press briefing, Puri said while the ministry had no plans of regulating fares, it has to happen within parameters of deregulation.

“We need to bring equilibrium within the market. Can’t say predatory pricing is the only reason of ill health of airlines, it is one of the reasons. After discussion with airlines, the trend of predatory pricing has reduced. Our advice to airlines is to charge realistic fares,” he said.

The Union Minister stated that the Central government will issue a new expression of interest to sell the national carrier. While replying to a question over the air-line fares and will there be any regulation over the same, he said, “Airfares will always be market-driven, no plans to regulate them.”

This statement from the Union Minister comes amid growing fears that the carrier may cease to fly by June next year if the issue is not solved. In the midst of the ongoing uncertainty over the future of the national carrier, the airline said there is also need for funds to restart the operations of 12 grounded narrow-body planes.