The government owes over Rs 110 crore to cash-strapped Air India for its special flights which ferry VVIPs including the President and the Prime Minister on their visits abroad which it is trying hard to realise.
The national carrier, which is facing financial crunch, has pending bills of 12 special flights for the President, the Vice-President and the Prime Minister which amount to over Rs 110 crore, an RTI reply from the carrier said.
It said during July last year, the total outstanding bills were Rs 291 crore.
"Out of the above amount, recently the government has paid Rs 181.30 crore leaving a balance outstanding amount of Rs 110.60 crore," the reply said.
The records show that two bills of are pending with the Defence Ministry for the abroad travel of the President to Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Damascus and Aleppo during November 20-30, 2010, which is Rs 14.5 crore and another to Paro via Bagdogra which is Rs 4.45 crore. The bill to Paro, Bhutan is nearly three years old, the reply dated December 28, 2011 said.
Five bills worth Rs 55.81 crore are pending with the Cabinet Secretariat for the travel of the Prime Minister to Huahin, Thailand during October 23-25, 2009, to Paro, Bhutan during April 27-30, to Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Hanoi during October 23-30, 2010, to Seoul during November 9-12, 2010 and to Brussels and Berlin during December 8-12, 2010.
The External Affairs Ministry which is responsible for organising the tours of the Vice-President owes Rs 35.79 crore towards the Air India for five tours abroad.
One outstanding bill for the travel of the vice-president to Male, Maldives is pending since November, 2008. The total bill for this trip was Rs 2.77 crore of which part payment was done leaving an outstanding of Rs 39 lakh.
The desperation of the Air India to recover the outstanding amount from the government is visible from a communication exchanged between the Civil Aviation Ministry and Air India which has been accessed by PTI.
In an email on July 8 last year the then Air India Executive Director S Venkat wrote to Civil Aviation Ministry, "As you are aware our request for the Rs 105 crore towards release of VVIP dues has been taken up by MoCA with the MoF and the file is presently pending with them for approval.
"Since we have to pay the oil companies on 'cash and carry' basis and due to liquidity crisis, we are unable to meet the commitments on a daily basis to them unless these amounts are paid."
He wanted MoCA to issue a letter on the same day, stating ministry has taken up VVIP dues for approval, which could be used for getting an advance of Rs 105 crore against dues from Standard Chartered bank so that payment for oil companies can be made next morning.
But despite such a desperate cry for settlement of dues of VVIPs, the ministry replied, "these ministries have conveyed their inability to make the payments immediately due to paucity of funds in their current year budget allocations."
"As you are aware a similar constraint had been expressed by Ministry of Home Affairs for making the payment towards VVIP operations and with the approval of Ministry of Finance, payment of Rs 250 crore had been made by this ministry to Air India in June, 2011," it said.
The ministry said it had sought approval of the Finance Ministry for release of Rs 105 crore from out of equity allocation of Rs 1,200 crore available in this year's budget which would be released as and when approval is received. Soon after this communication, the government had paid Rs 181.30 crore leaving an outstanding of Rs 110.60 crore.