M A I N   N E W S

Airport employees begin stir
Flights not hit

New Delhi, March 11
Employees of the Airport Authority of India began a “non-cooperation” drive across the country at the stroke of midnight tonight opposing the closure of existing airports in Bangalore and Hyderabad and initial reports said commercial flights were largely unaffected.

The agitation went into force after one round of talks between the employees and the Civil Aviation Ministry failed to end the deadlock over the Airport Authority Employees Joint Forum’s demand for withdrawal of government’s decision to close existing airports at Bangalore and Hyderabad after new airports there become operational.

Initial reports from airports in Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata indicated there was no disruption of either domestic or international flights due to the agitation.

There was no disruption of flight at Delhi and Mumbai airports, the two busiest airports in the country, as also in Bangalore and Chennai where most of the work has been privatised.

Soon after the agitation began, AAI employees from fire-fighting, housekeeping, engineering and ground safety departments left their duties at Delhi airport and raised slogans pressing for implementation of their demands.

There was, however, no cancellation or delay of flights till late into the night. With very few domestic flights in operation after midnight, the focus was on international flights coming into India and moving out.

A report from Kolkata airport said boarding on a flight to Kunming in China and security checks for flights to London and Bangkok went on smoothly. None of the 19 international flights which are to take off from Hyderabad from 1 am has been cancelled or delayed even as 375 AAI employees walked out of their duties.

A Bangalore report said flight movements remained unaffected by the agitation. It was unlikely that any of the eight to 10 international flights between midnight and 8 am would be hit because most of the services at the terminals are handled by employees of public sector Hindustan Aeronautical Limited who have not joined the AAI employees’ stir, airport sources said. A clear picture on the effect of the agitation is expected to emerge when domestic flights are resumed early tomorrow morning and international flights continue.

Taking a tough stand, government invoked ESMA against AAI employees at Delhi airport and positioned 479 Air Force personnel mainly at 21 airports, including major airfields in New Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Chennai, Kolkata and Bangalore, to deal with any contingency in the wake of the proposed agitation.

“Delhi government has invoked Essential Services Maintenance Act at the Indira Gandhi International airport here. It is already in operation,” K.N Srivastava, joint secretary, civil aviation ministry, said.

“I hope the unions know about large number of directives issued by Delhi High Court. I hope the unions remember these. We hope we will be able to control the situation and expect normal air services tomorrow,” he said adding the management and the unions are still discussing the matter.

Government is also contemplating invoking a 1984 law which empowers officers of the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) to arrest those who sabotage functioning of fire services, power and water supply and endanger safety and security of the airport.

In a last-ditch effort to avert the agitation, the civil aviation ministry and AAI officials held a round of talks with the employees in Delhi earlier in the evening but nothing came out of the exercise. — PTI



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