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Airport stir end in sight
PM promises no job loss
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 3
Striking employees of the Airports Authority of India (AAI) could end their stir with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh personally assuring workers that there would be no job loss due to privatisation of Delhi and Mumbai airports.

“The Prime Minister has made an appeal to us to end the stir. We will seriously consider it. We will be meeting soon to take a decision,” Joint Forum Convenor M. K. Ghoshal told reporters after a 90-minute meeting with the Prime Minister.

The meeting was also attended by Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel and Civil Aviation Secretary Ajay Prasad.

Dr Manmohan Singh agreed to meet leaders of the AAI employees union following a meeting with the Left leaders in the morning.

CPM General Secretary Prakash Karat said the Prime Minister would be holding talks with the AAI Employees Joint Forum.

The PM had also agreed to consider the alternative plan for modernisation of the Delhi and Mumbai airports which was submitted by the Forum to him last year, Mr Karat said.

The plan gives the AAI the responsibility of modernising the two major metro airports.

The strike by the airport workers for the third day today badly affected basic services at major airports and scuffles with the police led to blockade of the road leading to the Delhi airport for around 10 minutes. Incidentally, flights functioned normally.

The situation was soon brought under control and flights continued to be unaffected by the agitation, AAI spokesman Prem Nath said.

Despite the court order, amenities like water supply and sanitation were badly affected as passengers complained of unclean toilets and garbage littered around the airport.

Mr Ghoshal said the Centre was urged to set up a tripartite committee, comprising officials of the ministry, the AAI and the Forum representatives, to study the alternative plan for modernisation of the two airports, the future of the AAI and other related issues.

About the formation of a tripartite committee by the AAI, Mr Patel said a proposal had been given and the government would consider it.

He, however, stated that the decision of awarding the Delhi and Mumbai airport contracts to GMR and GVK-led consortia was final.

Delhi High Court, meanwhile, has deferred till Monday the hearing on the petition filed by the Reliance Airport Developers challenging the award of Delhi and Mumbai airports’ modernisation contracts to rival companies.

Allaying apprehensions of job loss, Mr Patel said the Prime Minister had also drawn the attention of the employees forum to the conditions imposed on the selected private bidders under which they had to absorb 40 per cent of the AAI employees.

While the bidders themselves had offered to absorb 60 per cent of the employees, “we will try to increase it further,” Mr Patel said, adding “special attention was being given to group C and D employees.”

Mr Ghoshal said: “Loss of jobs was never our concern. What we are opposing is the systematic unit-wise privatisation of the AAI as is being done by giving away profit-making Delhi and Mumbai airports.”

About the steps likely to be taken by the government in case the strike continued, Mr Patel said his ministry was only ensuring that there was no inconvenience to the passengers and that flights operated smoothly.

He parried a question on invoking the Essential Services Maintenance Act against the striking employees.
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