Sell Air India and move forward

Three things that remind me depressingly of the socialist times in which I grew up. The Ambassador car, the Ashoka hotels and Air India. Whenever I encounter these symbols of that dreary old India, I remember the tawdriness of those times. Images come back of surly Indian Airlines hostesses dumping cardboard boxes of stale food in front of me. Memories revive of that smell of lavatories that was ever redolent in the atmosphere of our state controlled airlines and government hotels. As for the Ambassador car, what memories it brings. I cannot count the number of times I have been stranded in an isolated rural spot because the engine of the car heated up or its fan-belt broke. India, mercifully, has changed since then but these three symbols of Nehruvian socialism remain defiant.

The Ambassador car remains the rattletrap it has always been, government hotels continue to be shabby and smelly and Air India continues to be a national disgrace. This is something the airline's pilots seem oblivious of or they would not dare to go on strike the way they did last week. Not only does nobody want to pay them any more money, there is a national consensus that it is time that Air India was either closed down or sold. It is not the business of government to run airlines or hotels, it is the business of government to govern and God knows how little of that there is around.

Indian taxpayers have been much too generous about the profligate habits of those who govern us. On account of our dedication to socialist economic policies, we have indulged the Indian state for far too long in its failed business ventures. As a consequence of this indulgence, we have a national carrier that has turned into a bottomless pit. Thousands of crore rupees have been poured into an airline that never seems to make money or provide halfway decent service except to politicians and high officials. It is this caboodle of freeloaders who refuse to allow Air India to be sold, so that it can continue to serve their personal needs.

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