M A I N   N E W S

Ajit’s fix-it plan: AI to hire pilots, expand network
Vibha Sharma/TNS

New Delhi, June 6
Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh could not have made his stand on the fate of sacked IPG pilots more clear. On a day when the pilots of the de-recognised Indian Pilots Guild approached the Air India chairman, pleading for opening up of a channel of communication, and held a “peace march”, a tough- taking minister made it absolutely clear that “terminated” pilots would have to apply afresh if they want to come back.

In other words, it means that now if the sacked pilots want to return to Air India they would have to forget about their seniority before the strike. The statement is also a kind of warning for all Air India unions that henceforth no attempts to hold the airline to ransom would be tolerated.

“They have condemned the Dharmadhikari report, which is part of turnaround plan. If they reject it, there is no point in their coming back,” the minister said, adding that the strike was over for them and the striking pilots were free to resign. But he ruled out privatisation of the national carrier, saying “There is no plan to privatise Air India at all”.

The management, clearly, is in no mood to take back the sacked pilots. The minister said apart from hiring new pilots, the junior cockpit crew are being trained to fill in the remaining gaps. In fact, the cash-strapped national carrier is doing quite well even with the given strength of pilots. After recruitments are over, the entire original Air India network of 27 stations would not only be fully restored but expanded also, said Ajit Singh.

With NCP leader Jietendra Awhad heading the stir against the department that comes under the ministry held by Ajit Singh, the strike has already reached beyond the realms of a mere industrial stir.

However, the minister’s tough stance has found appreciation from top UPA leadership, which believes that the “very irrational move by the highly paid pilots” to strike work when serious efforts were being made to keep it afloat with the taxpayers’ money needs to be dealt with strongly.

To be fair to Ajit Singh, from Day One he has been urging the striking pilots to come back to work, assuring that there would be no victimization. The agitators refused to pay heed to it.

Ill-timed as it is, the ongoing pilots' agitation has resulted in cancellation of several flights, including many international ones, of the cash-strapped carrier, causing passenger inconvenience and a loss of over Rs 350 crore to the exchequer.





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