M A I N   N E W S

Airport staff continue stir
Girja Shankar Kaura
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 2
As the strike by the Airports Authority of India (AAI) employees entered the second day and the flight schedule of most of the airlines remained unaffected, the employees resorted to other measures like blocking the roads to the airport to register their protest with the public.

The scene was particularly bad at the Delhi airport where scores of striking airport staff blocked all entry and exit points at the domestic terminal, causing huge traffic snarls and leaving passengers stranded and forcing them to walk for more than a kilometre to get into their vehicles and throwing movement of traffic haywire on the main approach road.

The new Minister of State for Labour, Mr Chandra Sekhar Sahu, said the striking workers might have genuine grievances against the modernisation of the Delhi and Mumbai airports and said that their fears should be allayed through dialogue and it must be ensured that they did not lose jobs.

To a query whether the workers would be invited for talks, he said any decision in this regard would be taken after Cabinet Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao returns to Delhi.

The Left parties, key allies of the ruling UPA coalition, asked the Central Government to call a meeting of the striking employees to find a solution to the agitation and decided to meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh tomorrow to take up the issue with him.

Meanwhile, the airline officials claimed that air traffic was normal, but passengers arriving at the airport complained of delays. Several passengers, some of them aged and ailing, were forced to walk carrying their baggage for several metres to get into their vehicles.

The striking employees, however, vowed to continue their road blockade until the government withdrew its airport privatisation plans.

Security was tight at the airport in view of the strike. Personnel of the CISF, CRPF and the Delhi Police were deployed in large numbers. However, at all airports across the country, the striking employees continued their dharna outside the terminal buildings and shouted slogans.

There were also reports of some disruptions from other parts of the country. Cargo delivery operations were disrupted in Chennai, while passengers had to face some difficulty with basic amenities like baggage clearance and public conveniences at the airports. Frantic efforts were on to normalise cargo delivery operations. The delivery of cargo has been affected with practically all 1,500 employees joining the strike.

At Chhatrapati Shivaji airport in Mumbai, the police cordoned off the entry point at the terminal building to facilitate passenger movement. Two companies of Rapid Action Force and additional police force were deployed at the airport to prevent any untoward incident.

The police had resorted to lathicharge yesterday after protesters started pelting stones and breaking police barricades at the entrance of the airport building.

Situation improved today at the NSC Bose International Airport in Kolkata after yesterday’s closure of the airport after the fire brigade and other personnel also joined the strike. Flights were operating on schedule, but passenger amenities were badly affected.

Airport Director V K Monga said flights were operating, but many of the facilities for the passengers could not be provided as the employees did not join their duties.

Passengers had to carry their own luggage as conveyor belts were not working, aero-bridge was not in service, the toilets were stinking, air-conditioning system was not functioning properly in some pockets and fire service was also affected.

Outside the terminal buildings, the striking employees continued their dharna and shouted slogans, but flight operations were not disturbed.


Left parties to meet PM on airport revamp issue
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 2
As the airport employees intensified their stir against the modernisation of Delhi and Mumbai airports, the Left parties today asked the UPA government to immediately hold talks with the workers and the Communists have decided to meet the Prime Minister tomorrow and raise the issue.

Communists, who are propping up the Congress-led coalition at the Centre, have raised question mark on the bidding process.

“The government should call the leadership of the workers — the Joint Forum of the AAI Employees — for talks to resolve the issue,” CPI general secretary A B Bardhan told reporters after a meeting of the Left parties here.

He said the government could not deal with the strike using the Essential Services Maintenance Act, the Indian Air Force and by “oppressive measures” and underscored that negotiations were the only way out.

The Left parties had threatened to politically deal with the UPA government if ESMA was invoked.

They also asked the government to take up the alternative proposal submitted by the Airports Authority of India (AAI) for the modernisation of Delhi and Mumbai airports and urged all trade unions to extend support for the strike.

The parties decided to meet representatives of all trade unions, irrespective of their political affiliations, to rope in their support for the agitation to force the government to reverse its decision to “privatise” the two airports.

When asked what the Left could do since the Union Cabinet had approved the proposal for modernisation, Mr Bardhan shot back, saying “Cabinet decision is not a word of the Bible.”


Delhi HC asks agitating staff to keep off airports
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, February 2
Taking a tough stand against the striking Airports Authority of India (AAI) employees on the issue of privatisation of the management of airports, the Delhi High Court today banned the entry of agitating staff into the airports and directed that they should protest keeping a distance of 500 m from airports.

Taking cognizance of a petition moved by the AAI seeking a direction to the employees and their leaders not to disrupt the functioning of airports, Mr Justice Swatanter Kumar directed that the employees would not protest and raise any slogan within the 500 m radius of the airports.

This virtually imposed a ban on agitation within the premises of the airports and their close vicinity across the country.

The court also directed the employees not create any obstruction in the movement of passengers and in the functioning of the airports.


Bengal CM plays firefighter
Subhrangshu Gupta

Kolkata, February 2
With no immediate signs of the Airports Authority of India’s employees ending their ‘stop-work’ agitation, the West Bengal Chief Minister, Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, today initiated a dialogue with the Civil Aviation Ministry and trade unions.

The Chief Minister himself disclosed this to newspersons at the Writers Building.

Following the Chief Minister's intervention, the striking employees at Kolkata’s Netaji Subhas International Airport withdrew their obstruction to the flight movements, but they decided to continue their agitation in all departments.

As a result, the air services started operating from Kolkata but the air passengers of both international flights and domestic flights had to suffer yet another ordeal at the airport following no supply of drinking water and non-availabilities of proper toilet, sanitation and other facilities.



Passengers have harrowing time

Mumbai, February 2
The strike by employees of the Airports Authority of India (AAI) continued for the second day today disrupting passenger facilities at the Chhatrapati Shivaji International airport here.

According to sources, baggage handling, electrical services and amenities like toilet and water facilities at the airport were badly hit. Passengers arriving from other places complained of stinking toilets and garbage littered all over the place. — TNS


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