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Airport strike ends as Govt softens stand

Airport employees call off their stir after assurance that no airport would be closed without consulting them.
PTI | By HT Correspondent, New Delhi
UPDATED ON MAR 14, 2008 03:18 AM IST

The nationwide agitation by airport employees was on Thursday night called off after the government assured them that no more airports would be closed down without consulting them and the Airports Authority of India would be strengthened and made more profitable.

Though flight operations were not affected by the two-day 'non-cooperation movement' called by Airports Authority Employees Joint Forum, it had its impact on sanitation, ground handling and other facilities at several airports across the country.

The decision to call off the agitation was taken after the employees' representatives, accompanied by CPI(M) and CITU leaders MK Pandhe, Tapan Sen and Dipankar Mukherjee, had an almost hour-long meeting with Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel.

After Patel's assurances, the Forum leaders met separately and decided to withdraw their agitation, its Convenor MK Ghoshal told PTI.

The employees, protesting the government's decision to close existing airports in Bangalore and Hyderabad on completion of the new ones, were assured by Patel that modernisation of 35 non-metro airports would be undertaken with "full involvement" of the AAI and its employees.

During their meeting with Patel, the employees' side expressed concern over AAI's economic viability saying most of the profit-making airports, like those in Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Bangalore, were either being privatised or the existing airports closed down to make way for new private-run ones.

In response to their concerns, Patel assured them that steps would be taken to strengthen AAI and make it more profitable. The employees' interests would also be kept foremost in mind, the minister said.

Ghoshal said a meeting of the Tripartite Committee, comprising officials of Civil Aviation Ministry, AAI and union representatives, would be convened soon to discuss all these issues.

Earlier in the day, Patel had told reporters that the government would also find a way to expand the operations of the existing airports in Hyderabad and Bangalore in consultation with the private-led consortia which have constructed the greenfield airports in the two cities.

Under the agreements entered with the private parties which are building and operating the new airports at the two cities, the government has to close down commercial flight operations in the old ones.

He said the old airports would be used for general aviation, defence purposes and for national emergencies. The term 'general aviation' denotes non-scheduled operations of private aircraft or chartered services in which small planes are generally used.

"Keeping in mind the interests of all sections, we will try to find a way out of the legal problems in future, speak to the operators (of the greenfield airports). There are court cases as well as contractual obligations. We will try to expand operations at the existing airports. But no immediate solution is possible," Patel had said in reply to questions.

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