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Day 3: The stink only gets worse

After the AAI workers' unions met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday, there was a slightest hint that the airport strike may finally end. But Mumbai and Kolkata airports continued to be hit.

india Updated: Feb 04, 2006 01:52 IST

After the AAI workers' unions met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday, there was a slightest hint that the airport strike may finally end. But Mumbai and Kolkata airports continued to be hit.

The flights were more or less on scheduled but for those who dared to travel, it was sheer agony — from the minute they got off their cabs till they fastened their seat belts.

They had to make their way past angry workers — a nerve-wracking experience — and garbage that had been left uncleared for the third day running.

There was tension in the Kolkata airport as workers roughed up some laboureres. AAI officials had engaged a contractor to clear the mess at the airport. The contractor got his men along they soon began arranging the trolleys. That got to the striking workers who allegedly beat up the labourers and stopped them from carrying out their work. Angry workers said it was a breach of trust since the AAI had promised them not to engage private hands.

AAI sources said that though most flights took off on time, the services took a hit. Power and water supply were affected, which meant that the air conditioning system didn't work and the toilets ran out of water.

An airlines official in the domestic lounge said, "We are working for about 12 hours a day, but the situation is worsening. It is stinking everywhere."

In Mumbai, passengers checked in early to avoid roadblocks and parking hassles. "I took the boarding pass at 1 p.m. for my 5.30 p.m. Chennai flight. I cannot afford to miss this trip," said Amit Talwar, an ICICI employee.

The employees said they wouldn't give in. "We have called for a meeting of airline unions of Indian, Jet Airways and others to seek their support," said Dilip Gujar, assistant general secretary of the Airports Authority Employees Union (AAEU).

The employees continued to threaten that would carry out self-immolation bids on the runway. Nitin Jadhav, a union leader, said they may have to resort to such means to have their way.

Meanwhile, in Karaikudi, TN, Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram pooh-poohed left parties' vehement opposition to the involvement of private sector in the modernisation of Delhi and Mumbai airports and said the decision was taken only after obtaining the consent of leaders of the parties, including CPI-M politburo member Sitaram Yechury.

"We had consulted Left parties regarding the government's move and got their consent," he told reporters.

First Published: Feb 04, 2006 01:35 IST