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India renews push to sell Air India

Want to buy a chunk of a major flag carrier?

The Indian government is in the market to sell its stake of Air India - and on Monday set a March 17 deadline for initial expressions of interest.

Indian conglomerate Hinduja Group and US-based fund Interups are already reported to be submitting theirs.

It's not the first attempt at a sale: in 2018 the government failed to divest 76 per cent of the airline, and with it over five billion dollars of debt.

Air India workers protested ....

And potential bidders opted out because of stringent conditions attached - such as retaining all employees.

This time, the government has indicated, it's open to revising some provisions.

Though bidders must assume liabilities, including debt at just under 3.3 billion dollars.

And substantial ownership and control must remain with an Indian entity.

The sale might face opposition from within prime minister Narendra Modi's ruling BJP Party - one lawmaker describes the deal as quote 'anti-national'.

But if successful, the buyer gets over 7,000 landing slots in India and overseas ...

Together with the carrier's low-cost arm and a stake in its cargo and ground-handling operations.

As for staff, Air India currently has around 13,000 permanent and contract personnel on its books ...

Including 1,850 pilots.