New Delhi, Mar 12: Employees of the Airports Authority of India (AAI) have begun an indefinite 'non-cooperation movement' from March 11 midnight after the Government rejected their demands to continue the operations of the existing Bangalore and Hyderabad Airports. However, initial reports from airports in Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata indicated there was no disruption of either domestic or international flights by the agitation. At Delhi Airport, the airport authorities have assured that the airport, one of the busiest in the country, would try to minimise hassle to passengers. The staffers at the Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA), however, said they were not on strike but had started a 'non-cooperation movement'.
"It is a 'non-cooperation movement' and not a strike, in which we will come to work, but will not work. We only want to show our disapproval to the Government and want to show to the entire country how the Government retracts on its promises," said Pramod Kumar Sharma, Branch Secretary, Airport Authority Employees Union, IGIA. Soon after the agitation began, AAI employees from fire-fighting, housekeeping, engineering and ground safety departments left their duties and shouted slogans pressing for implementation of their demands.
Meanwhile, the Delhi Government has invoked Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) at the IGIA. The Air Force moved 479 personnel to 21 airports, which include major airfields in New Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Chennai, Kolkata and Bangalore to deal with the situation. The strike, which is called by the Airport Authority Employees Joint Forum, is bound to affect 127 airports across the nation run by the AAI.
About 14,000 union members are expected to be on strike over the imminent ending of commercial flights at existing airports in Hyderabad and Bangalore. The existing airports in both the metros are to be closed down after the inauguration of the new greenfield airports there. A greenfield airport is one which is built from scratch on a new or, undeveloped site. The venture could be entered into on the basis of a Build-Own-Transfer (BOT) arrangement or a Build-Own-Operate (BOO) arrangement.
New airports with better facilities built by private developers are due to open in both cities. The union says that when that happens, staff at the old airports will lose their jobs or get shifted elsewhere. There are strong growth prospects for airport privatisation in India, given the steady expansion of air transport.
According to a World Bank report, private participation in airport development and operation is an accepted concept the world over, as it attracts less investment than privately sponsored projects on other transport segments. Airport assets are viewed as strategic for national security, and therefore, outright privatisation is often met with resistance from those affected by it.