Ajit bid to have a say in aircraft purchases put on hold

FP

In a snub to Union Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's office has put on hold his decision to constitute a new Aircraft Acquisition Committee headed by him to recommend the import of aircraft. The ministry already has such a committee headed by an additional secretary, who is the final authority to recommend as well as approve aircraft procurement.

In a communication sent on October 30, the PMO directed the civil aviation ministry to put the move — which would have given Ajit Singh discretionary powers by making him the final sanctioning authority — "in abeyance".

The PMO directed that status quo be maintained until "a final view is taken in the matter".

A two-page note sent along with the communication suggested that having such a committee would "delay" the process and promote "licence raj".

"Somebody had complained to the PMO, that is why they wrote to us," Ajit Singh told The Indian Express. "Where is the question of licence raj, delaying proposals? I clear it much faster, within two to four days."

The new committee, proposed last month, would have recommended aircraft acquisitions to Ajit Singh, who would then have taken the final call. The ministry order stated, "Superseding the earlier orders, an Aircraft Acquisition Committee is hereby constituted to consider, examine and make recommendations on all proposals".

When pointed out that the new committee would only have the powers to recommend, Ajit Singh said: "Earlier too, the additional secretary and secretary were signing, they will continue to sign. I have also signed on two-three files. We have streamlined and expedited the process."

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