Vinay Kumar

Manmohan enquires about passenger woes

NEW DELHI: As the stalemate continued for the third day on Thursday between Jet Airways and its agitating pilots and as travellers faced a harrowing time due to large-scale cancellation of flights, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made enquiries about the crisis.

With no breakthrough in sight, Dr. Singh, at a Cabinet meeting, asked Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel how bad the situation had turned for passengers. Though the possibility of government intervention was discussed, official sources said no view was taken on it.

Speaking on behalf of the Jet pilots, Congress MP from North Mumbai Sanjay Nirupam dashed off a letter to Dr. Singh suggesting that the government nationalise the private carrier. He took exception to the management’s stand that pilots forming a union was unacceptable.

Later in the day, Jet chairman Naresh Goyal also met the MP. However, both the management and the pilots appeared to be sticking to their stand.

As many as 230 flights were cancelled on the third day of the strike. The pilots and the management were supposed to meet the Chief Labour Commissioner, but the pilots could not make it to the meeting, which was adjourned till Friday.

Jet executive director Saroj Dutta, who discussed the situation with the Chief Labour Commissioner for nearly three hours, said they would meet again on Friday.

The pilots maintained that they would not return to work until the management took back four colleagues who were sacked. Two of them were allegedly shown the door 45 days ago for forming a union — the National Aviators Guild (NAG) — while the other two were sacked as the protest action began.

In an appeal to the agitators — over 400 pilots were on sick leave — ground staff of the airline urged them to get back to work.

But NAG president Girish Kaushik said: “Bring the four sacked pilots back and we will fly.” He said they would attend the mediation session on Friday with the Labour Commissioner.

Following allegations of airlines making a fast buck, taking advantage of the strike, the DGCA asked the carriers to charge fares at last week’s level.

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