Etihad, NIIF To Pour ₹3,800 Crore In Jet Airways, Naresh Goyal To Step Down

Etihad Airways and the National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF) will together put- in ₹4,000 crore into debt- ridden Jet Airways in a last- ditch effort to keep the airlines afloat. 

The company’s founder- chairman Naresh Goyal and his wife Anita will step down from the airline board and all executive positions. 

The bailout plan will see a conversion of lenders loans to equity and Jet Airways’ 51 per cent share in Jet Privilege will be pledged with them to raise fund. The financial daily has learnt that Jet’s new investor is expected to be NIIF.

Naresh Goyal may have to give up management control if the proposals are accepted, and it will provide Etihad and NIIF — which will inject Rs 1,900 crore each — a bigger role in the airline’s functioning. Of the total amount, the Abu-Dhabi-based airline will invest Rs 750 crore as interim funding. At present, Etihad has 24 per cent stake in Jet Airways.

It may be noted that Goyal has already injected Rs 250 crore into the company, and this along with an additional Rs 450 crore — towards liabilities of promoter groups — will be converted into equity shares. Goyal’s stake will drop to around 22 per cent while NIIF will get about 20 per cent in the troubled full service airline.

As per the report, the proposal laid emphasis on making Jet a board-run airline. People in the know told the daily that talks are on and the Jet founder-chairman is not giving in without a fight.

Naresh Goyal will immediately step down from the chairmanship of the loss-making carrier, and relinquish all executive roles. The 69-year-old tycoon would be designated as chairman emeritus (an honorary post) till 2025.

According to the draft proposal, Naresh Goyal will nominate two persons — other than himself and wife Anita — to the airline’s board.  Nivaan Goyal, his son, will be considered for an executive position in the company, the publication mentioned.

On Monday, Jet defaulted on the part-repayment of its external commercial borrowings because of a fund crunch.

AAP, TMC Objects Ramzan Cononciding With Election Schedule, EC Dismisses Claim

Replying to the objections raised by Trinamool and Aam Aadmi Party against the Lok Sabha election schedule coinciding with Ramzan, the Election Commission said on Monday that it was impossible to exclude this fasting month of Muslims from the election period as it goes on for a month. 

“During Ramzan, polls are conducted as full month cannot be excluded. However, date of main festivals and Fridays are avoided for poll days,” said an EC official.

The polls will be held from April 11 to May 19, followed by counting on May 23, while Ramzan is expected to commence either on May 5 or 6, depending on sighting of the moon. It lasts about 29 days. 

Leaders of TMC and AAP have claimed that polls during the holy month will inconvenience fasting Muslims, largely seen to be backing the opposition parties, and help the ruling BJP. 

An EC official said reaching a polling booth, queuing up and voting takes only a little effort and time, since polling stations are located near one’s place of residence. Also, the polling day is usually a holiday, at least in government offices and institutions. It is also not unusual for Muslims to carry on with their normal routine during Ramzan.

TMC leader and Kolkata mayor Firhad Hakim, questioning the Ramzan overlap and the seven-phase schedule for UP, Bihar and Bengal, contended, “BJP doesn’t want minorities to cast their votes. Minority population in these three states is quite high. But we aren’t worried. People are committed to ‘BJP hatao, desh bachao!” 

AAP’s Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh also termed the schedule unfair. “How will Muslims participate in big numbers while they will be on fast. Does EC even lack this much of common sense,” he bluntly asked. 

The elections will run from April 11 till May 19, while Ramzan is expected to begin either on May 5 or 6.

Supreme Court Says It Cannot Kill Jobs In Firecracker Industry

The firecracker manufacturers argue that there is no definite study which says that 

bursting of crackers made the air quality worse during festivals like Diwali. 

In an un-turn from its 2018 October 23 order banning manufacture, sale and use of loud and toxic firecrackers while allowing only green and improved crackers, the Supreme Court on Tuesday said they cannot killed the jobs of poor people working in the firecracker industry, driving them to starvation

“We cannot give money or jobs or support people who will lose their jobs if we shut down firecrackers manufacturing units… We do not want to generate unemployment,” Justice Bobde Justice S.A. Bobde said on Wednesday.

The Supreme Court cannot kill the jobs of thousands of poor people working in the firecracker industry, driving them to starvation. If the court cannot generate jobs, its orders should not extinguish their livelihood, Justice Bobde observed.

The court asked how it can possibly feel empowered to put the shutters down on an occupation which is both legal and licensed.

This is a veritable u-turn from the apex court’s October 23 ban on the manufacture, sale and use of loud and toxic firecrackers while allowing only green and improved crackers.

However, there has been no consensus so far on what composes green crackers despite all these months after the October order of the apex court. The factories have remained shut, especially in Sivakasi district in Tamil Nadu, which is the hub for cracker manufacturing.

The October ban was based on petitions filed by a six-month-old and a 14-month-old, through their fathers in 2015. They had said the air pollution caused by various factors, especially firecrackers, has made Delhi a gas chamber. They pleaded for their right to life.

“People are gunning for firecrackers, but the bigger pollutant is vehicles… Had the normal pollution level been low, then we could have managed better,” Justice Bobde observed.

This is the first time the case came up before the Bench led by Justice Bobde. The case was previously heard by another Bench led by Justice A.K. Sikri, who retired recently. Justice Bobde is in line to be the next Chief Justice of India.

To a lawyer who said other countries also use crackers with stringent safeguards, Justice Bobde said firecrackers are not loved there as much as we do in India.

Throughout the hearing, Justice Bobde categorically repeated that “we do not wish to generate unemployment”.

The judge’s observations is quite in line with what the cracker manufacturers, strongly backed by the Tamil Nadu government, has argued.

They had contended that there was no definite study to show that bursting of crackers made the air quality worse during festivals like Diwali. The fundamental right to occupation of the cracker industry cannot be put in peril on the basis of unsubstantiated allegations that crackers pollute. The court should wait for a “complete study”.

The industry has argued that the revenue generated from the manufacturing and sale of fireworks is to the tune of ₹6,000 crore per annum. Further, the industry employs five lakh families.

“Such a revenue to the State as well as employment to large number of workers on which five lakh families sustain cannot be put in jeopardy by imposing a total ban. It was emphasised that there is a necessity to adopt a balanced approach,” the cracker manufacturers had argued.

The court has even before in this case said its endeavour is to strive for balance between the right to public health and the right to occupation of the industry.