AAI strike enters second day

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New Delhi/ Bagdogra (WB), Mar 13: A non-cooperation movement called by employees of the Airport Authority of India (AAI) entered its second day today.

However, there were no reports of a delay in flights from any airport. Support services like baggage handling, washroom cleaning and maintenance of general airport hygiene at Delhi, Mumbai and Hyderabad airports also remained unaffected. Reports from Calcutta Airport said, the terminals were affected by the strike. According to sources, water and electricity supply was affected.

R. Das, an AAI employee at Bagdogra Airport in West Bengal, said "Be it cleaning, trolley service, conveyer belt, lift, water, electricity, the airport, whatever services comes under the Airports Authority, will not be provided to the passengers."

A majority of the strikers are employed in airport support services. On Wednesday, Union Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel said the interests of the AAI employees would be fully protected. "The existing airports at Hyderabad and Bangalore would continue to remain operational for general aviation, defence purposes and national emergencies. Further, the interests of the AAI employees at these airports will be fully protected," Patel said.

He said that during 1990's the Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka Governments had approached the Central Government with a request to construct greenfield airports at Hyderabad and Bangalore respectively.

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.

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

The Delhi Government has invoked the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) at the IGIA.

The strike is being called by the AAI Employees Joint Forum. The existing airports in both 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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