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Airport staff end strike after Patel’s assurance

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Resolved: Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel addressing journalists after holding a meeting with airport employees at the Rajiv Gandhi Bhavan in New Delhi on Thursday.
Resolved: Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel addressing journalists after holding a meeting with airport employees at the Rajiv Gandhi Bhavan in New Delhi on Thursday.

Aarti Dhar

“No airport will be closed down without consulting employees”

NEW DELHI: The two-day “non-cooperation movement” by employees of the Airports Authority of India to protest against closure of the Hyderabad and Bangalore airports was called off here on Thursday evening.

The decision followed a government assurance, at a meeting Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel had with representatives of the Airports Authority of India Employees Union (AAEU) and trade union leaders here, that no airport would be closed down without consulting the employees. Also, modernisation of 35 non-metro airports would be carried out with the full involvement of the AAI workers.

The Minister promised to “re-examine and re-look” the Concession Agreement within its framework as it had some shortcomings, union general secretary M.K. Ghoshal told reporters.

Under this agreement, the government is obliged to close the old airports after the commissioning of the new ones set up under Joint Venture Projects.

Talking to reporters, the Minister said the existing Bangalore and Hyderabad airports would continue to be used for general aviation, defence and national emergencies. The government had some commitments to the developers of the airports in Bangalore and Hyderabad and the matter was in the court but [the government] would do whatever possible within the framework of the agreement to safeguard the employees’ interests.

Mr. Ghoshal said the government also promised to make the “utmost” efforts not to disturb non-executive AAI employees at the major airports, but those wanting to leave voluntarily would be allowed to do so.

Meanwhile, the government has postponed the commissioning of the new Bangalore International Airport at Devanahalli till after May 10. It was scheduled to be opened on March 30.

In a communication to Bangalore International Airport Pvt. Ltd. (BIAL), the Ministry said the commissioning was postponed because of non-availability of Air Traffic Control (ATC) services by March 30. Given the status of the availability of ATC services, the Ministry has directed BIAL to consider a suitable date after May 10.

While all other Central government agencies responsible for activities at the airports confirmed their readiness, the Airports Authority of India has reservations about the availability of ATC by the scheduled date. Delays in construction of ATC facilities, including the control tower, the technical block, office accommodation for AAI personnel and issues related to infrastructure, were cited as other reasons for the delay.

While almost all flights across the country were on schedule on the second day, there were complaints of airports not being cleaned.

Kolkata Special Correspondent writes:

For the second successive day, passengers faced inconvenience at the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport because of a severe disruption in basic amenities even though services were normal.

The accumulation of garbage and the deteriorating conditions in toilets were becoming a health hazard, an AAI official said.

There was confusion as the information display boards did not function and the public address system had been rendered inoperative.

Biman Bose, chairman of the Left Front committee, said the demands of the agitating employees were “justified” and the privatisation of profit-making airports could not be accepted.

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