Show us someone who thinks that new airports are not the desperate need of the hour, and we will show you a political party that doesn’t care about Airport Authority of India (AAI) employees. With air traffic growing exponentially, it is a no-brainer that expanding existing airports alone will not do the trick. Greenfield airports have to be built and built fast. In this context, the forthcoming inauguration of the two new airports catering to Bangalore and Hyderabad is welcome. But with the two new airports will come the closure of the two old ones. The AAI are opposed to this replacement scheme — something that had been decided upon by the Civil Aviation Ministry and the two companies, Bangalore International Airport Ltd (Bial) and GMR Hyderabad International Airport Ltd (Ghial). And there lies the crux of the
agitation by some 20,000 AAI employees across the nation, who want both old and new airports to be operational.
On the face of it, having both old and new airports running in a city makes great sense. After all, the more the merrier. But private players are no Missionaries of Charity and profitability does feature in their scheme of things. (The result of not having private players with ‘moneymaking’ in mind, as has been the case for decades on end, is there for all to see.) To make new airports economically feasible, old ones have to be shut. Interestingly, it was only after a Standing Committee headed by CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury tabled the matter in Parliament that the AAI came alive all a-bristle. Do we detect a delectably timed political playing to the gallery here when we consider that the AAI is throwing a fit long after it had known the project details? The AAI maintains that the government, which had apparently promised to sit down in negotiations, has hoodwinked airport workers. For Left-watchers, all this sounds a bit familiar, doesn’t it?
There may be points to criticise about the new airports in Bangalore and Hyderabad. Considering their distances from the cities, the condition of roads to and from the airports could make passengers grudge the journey before and after their flights. But whether the closure of the old airports merit “a non-cooperation movement” that will make passengers more miserable than they already are, is at least as important an issue to consider as that of AAI employees’ right to work in unnecessary airports.