Interests of AAI employees will be fully protected: Praful Patel

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New Delhi, Mar 12: Union Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel on Wednesday said that the interests of the Airport Authority of India (AAI) employees at these airports would be fully protected. "The existing airports at Hyderabad and Bangalore would continue to remain operational for general aviation, defence purposes, national emergencies etc. Further the interests of the AAI employees at these airports will be fully protected," Patel told the Parliament.

Patel said that all reserved activities such as security, immigration, customs and air traffic control would continue to be under government control at the new airports. He informed the parliamentarians that during 1990's the Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka Governments had approached the Central Government with request to construct Greenfield airports at Hyderabad and Bangalore respectively.

"In the Year 2000, the Task Force on infrastructure recommended setting up of new international airports at Bangalore and Hyderabad and closure of the existing airports once the new airports become operational. Based on the recommendation, the Central Government approved the proposal. This decision was taken so as to ensure financial viability of the new airports," Patel said.

The Minister also said that the Central Government is obliged to close down all commercial civil aviation operations at the existing airports once the new airports are made operational.

"The Concession Agreement specifies the consequences of default by each party," he added.

Employees of the AAI have begun an indefinite 'non-cooperation movement' from Tuesday midnight after the Government rejected their demands to continue the operations of the existing Bangalore and Hyderabad Airports.

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

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 AAI 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.


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