Employees at existing Hyderabad airport to join strike

March 11th, 2008 - 8:20 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Sonia Gandhi

Hyderabad, March 11 (IANS) All employees of the Airports Authority of India at the Begumpet airport here will join the nationwide strike from Tuesday midnight to press their demand for continuing operations at the existing airports in Hyderabad and Bangalore. The airport at Begumpet in the heart of the city is to be closed down once the new international airport at Shamshabad becomes operational March 16.

The AAI employees, however, are not ready to accept this and have given a call for an indefinite strike nationwide.

None of the 270 AAI employees will attend their ground handling and emergency duties from midnight to demand that the central government pull out of an agreement with the GMR-led consortium, which stipulates that the existing airport will shut all operations once the greenfield airport becomes operational at Shamshabad, about 35 km from Begumpet.

“We will continue the strike till the government accepts our demand,” V.S. Gupta, secretary of the AAI employees union, told IANS.

The strike by the employees including the ground handling and administrative staff is likely to hit air traffic. AAI officials, however, said they have made alternate arrangements to ensure that the traffic is not affected.

The union is also claiming the support of about 400 casual employees at the airport, which handles movement of over 250 flights every day.

“Our fight is not just for our jobs. It is for the airport, which is making a profit of Rs.250 crore (Rs.2.50 billion) every year. Why it should not continue its operations?” asked Gupta.

He did not agree that the existing airport had no room for further expansion and pointed out that Rs.2 billion were spent to improve the facilities here during the last couple of years.

“Let them have two airports in the city. The new airport should operate without closing down the existing one. Let there be competition between the two,” said Mateen Khan, a union leader.

The union leaders fear that the closure of the existing airport would hit hundreds of people who depend on it for their livelihood. “More than 6,000 people including taxi and auto-rickshaw drivers will become jobless,” said Khan.

Thirteen international and 10 domestic airlines function out of the existing airport, which recorded revenues of Rs.1.28 billion during 2007-08.

Congress chief Sonia Gandhi is scheduled to inaugurate the new airport March 14.

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