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AAI staff on strike all over

IT HAPPENED as expected. On Tuesday, the government opened the financial bid for the modernisation of Delhi and Mumbai airports and the airport employees' unions announced they would strike work indefinitely from Wednesday.

india Updated: Feb 01, 2006 01:35 IST

IT HAPPENED as expected. On Tuesday, the government opened the financial bid for the modernisation of Delhi and Mumbai airports and the airport employees' unions announced they would strike work indefinitely from Wednesday.

The AAI Employees' Joint Forum said the 22,000-odd employees affiliated to various unions across the country would be on strike from 10 a.m. on Wednesday.

The Mumbai and Kolkata airports, however, saw some action on Tuesday itself. Over 60 per cent of the employees in Mumbai staged a daylong protest against the bidding at Terminal 1 B foyer, affecting services at the airport.

While it was not confirmed whether the air traffic controllers would join the strike, source said fire services -- essential for an aircraft to take off or land at any airport -- would participate in the strike.

Those who operate runway lights, manage power and water supply will also strike work. Amenities like toilets, drinking water and help desks of the AAI are also certain to be hit, union sources said.

The strike call came on a day marked by high drama and the government's determination to award contracts for airport modernisation in spite of the strike threat by the AAI employees, backed by the Left parties.

Even as Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel said cabinet approval for the contracts would be sought on Wednesday, CPM leader Sitaram Yechury compared the contracts with the Bofors gun purchase. "Rajiv Gandhi lost an election on the Bofors issue. Manmohan Singh will meet the same fate on this one," he said.

After the eGoM meeting, Patel said the financial bids of all those in the fray was opened by the AAI at Rajiv Gandhi Bhavan in the afternoon. He said both the selected consortiums (GMR-Fraport and GVK-South Africa) have categorically stated that they would absorb at least 60 per cent of the AAI employees.

Asked why the AAI employees' alternate proposal for airport modernisation was not considered, Patel said: "I have no doubts that the AAI could carry out the modernisation process for these two airports exactly as needed but we (the government) felt that the AAI should not concentrate all its finances and efforts on modernising only these two airports."

"This way, the two consortiums will modernise the two main metro airports while the AAI can concentrate its efforts on other airports."

Earlier, it was drama at Rajiv Gandhi Bhavan, the headquarters of the AAI with Sitaram Yechury being denied entry to the complex a few hours before the financial bids were to be opened.

Addressing AAI employees after that, Yechury said if the government opened the financial bids, the Left would have to consider withdrawing support to it.

The bids, however, were opened and late in the evening MPs of Left parties met the PM to re-iterate their stand on the issue.

First Published: Feb 01, 2006 01:34 IST