Airports strike to continue as government refuses to budge

March 12th, 2008 - 11:29 pm ICT by admin  

(Second Lead)

New Delhi, March 12 (IANS) Airport employees across India late Wednesday decided to continue with their strike after the government, rejecting their demand, made clear that the existing Bangalore and Hyderabad airports will terminate commercial operations once the new airports start functioning. The striking employees also rebuffed Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel’s assurance that their interests would be fully protected.

“We want the government to continue commercial activities from these airports. This was our demand and we will continue with our agitation till it is considered,” M.K Ghoshal, the general secretary of the Airports Authority Employees Union, told IANS.

Earlier, Patel said in a statement: “The government is obliged to close down all commercial civil aviation operations at the existing airports at Bangalore and Hyderabad once the new airports are made operational there.

He referred to an agreement signed between the government and the developers of the two airports earlier, which requires all commercial activities at the two existing airports to end when the greenfield projects become operational.

However, the two existing airports would continue to operate for general aviation, defence purposes and during national emergencies, Patel said.

The statement pointed out that activities concerning security, immigration, customs and air traffic control would continue to be under the government control at the new airports.

The government, under pressure from the Left parties and the agitating employees, gave up its earlier stand, in which it announced closure of all activities at the existing airports.

The minister also assured all concerned that the interests of the AAI employees at these airports would be fully protected.

The AAI employees went on strike at midnight after talks with the civil aviation ministry failed Tuesday. The employees’ union had given a call for the strike Feb 26 this year.

The agitating employees have been demanding that “commercial activities” at existing airports in Bangalore and Hyderabad should not be shut down after the new greenfield airports start functioning there in the next few weeks.

Meanwhile, the Left parties Wednesday stalled the proceedings in the Lok Sabha demanding immediate withdrawal of the Essential Supplies and Maintenance Act (ESMA) invoked by the central government against the striking employees.

While the new airport at Hyderabad is slated to become operational Sunday, the new facility at Bangalore will start functioning next month.

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