01 March, 2021

A Bird’s Past, And Future...

The Praful Patel years, which all but grounded AI, come under the lens just as privatisation looms

Photograph by Soumik Kar
A Bird’s Past, And Future...

Around Christmas time in 2010, Praful Patel, the then civil aviation minister, hosted a party for top employees of Air India at his upscale Mumbai house. An exo­tic tree—the centerpiece in his rooftop garden—elicited a lot of interest. Praful reportedly told everyone that he had it transported from Bali on board a special Air India flight.

A relatively minor act of misdemeanour by the suave Praful, it may not have found its way into the scathing report put out less than a year later by the government’s auditor. There was already eno­ugh for the CAG to sink its teeth into: its 2011 report came down heavily on Air India, its management and the ministry of civil aviation for various acts of omission and commission that landed the national carrier in a morass of debt that has now swelled to over Rs 50,000 crore. Praful was the minister in the cockpit from 2004 to 2011—the major duration of the UPA’s two terms in power.

The chickens have now come home to roost. Three separate FIRs—all naming Praful as the man at the...

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