Indian airports largely unaffected despite protest

March 13th, 2008 - 12:32 am ICT by admin  

(Intro Roundup)

New Delhi, March 12 (IANS) Airports across India reported near normalcy Wednesday even as 20,000 employees went on strike from midnight to protest closure of commercial operations at the existing Bangalore and Hyderabad airports. Rejecting striking employees’ demand, the government maintained that all commercial operations from the existing Bangalore and Hyderabad airports will be closed after two new airports there start functioning.

“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,” Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel said in a statement.

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.

Under pressure from the Left parties and the agitating Airports Authority of India (AAI) employees, the government climbed down from earlier stand of closing all activities at the existing airports.

Late Wednesday, striking employees decided to continue their agitation.

“We want the to continue to 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 Airport Authority Employees Union told IANS. He maintained that the protest would go ahead.

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

Ignoring the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) the government invoked, the employees did not calling their protest a strike to escape legal action against them.

The government Wednesday did not offer talks with the employees. “Their demands are not legitimate. We have to follow the rules and agreement we have with the airport developers. We cannot backtrack,” said a senior official of the ministry here.

The Left parties stalled the proceedings in the Lok Sabha demanding immediate withdrawal of the ESMA against the striking employees.

The strike, however, seemed to have little impact as air traffic was unaffected.

Other than few flight delays at some airports, the airports across the country pressed in additional manpower to meet the shortage. Airport officials here said the strike partially affected baggage handling, sanitation and other ground activities.

“There was no problem. We had put in additional manpower. Everything was normal like any other day,” said the spokesperson of the Delhi International Airport Limited, the developers of the Indira Gandhi International airport here.

A few flights from the IGI airport were delayed.

About 500 Indian Air Force (IAF) personnel trained in airfield safety, fire fighting and aircraft marshalling were deployed at 21 major civilian airports to ensure smooth take offs and landings, officials told IANS. The IAF moved trained personnel from various airfields in Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir to Amritsar.

In Mumbai, the country’s commercial capital, about 2,500 AAI employees joined the strike, said union leader Dilip Gujjar. But operations in the airport, which has been privatised, were near normal. Officials said all domestic and international flights flew out on time.

In Chennai, both domestic and international terminals functioned normally. Kerala’s three international airports at Thiruvananthapuram, Cochin and Kozhikode functioned normally. In the state capital, close to 400 employees were on strike. Bhopal’s airport was also not affect air traffic from there.

Chandigarh said flights were not expected to be hit as requisite backup plans were in place. Bhubaneswar also remained unaffected. In Kolkata, flights departed in time, but the strike took a toll on the airport’s cleanliness and passenger facilities.

At Hyderabad, one of the two focal points of the dispute, union leaders claimed all 270 employees at the existing Begumpet airport had struck work. But officials said alternative arrangements had been made to ensure that air traffic was not affected.

No disruptions were reported from Bangalore, which too faces closure on account of a new airport. Flight operations were normal, but sanitation in the premises was affected.

The police said the situation in and around the airport was peaceful, though small groups of striking employees demonstrated through the day, shouting slogans against the closure of the two airports at Bangalore and Hyderabad.

Security at airports was beefed up with deployment of additional Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) personnel. Authorities advised passengers to check the status of their flights with the airlines before leaving for airports.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Posted in Business |