Delayed flights, dirty toilets, turmoil continues
Protests against airports' privatisation move have entered the second day. Picsindia Updated: Feb 02, 2006 14:56 IST
The strike and unruly protests by about 22,000 airport workers against the privatisation of Mumbai and Delhi airports entered its second day on Thursday.
With overflowing dustbins, filthy toilets with no water, authorities had called in outside help at the New Delhi's Haj terminal to maintain essential services.
The situation inside the airport told its own story of the efficacy of the strike and authorities were forced to call in 15 workers of the NGO Sulabh International to at least keep the Haj terminal clean.
"We have asked Sulabh people to take charge of a part of the airport, especially at the Haj terminal," said the housekeeping in-charge.
He added that 10 of these men were stationed inside the airport while five were outside trying to clean the garbage bins and terminals.
But that was scarcely enough to end the woes of the passengers landing at the domestic and international airports to find filth and no drinking water.
"Toilets are dirty and there is no one to clean the garbage bins. As the staff is on strike, there is no one to even pump water in the water tanks at the airport," said AAI spokesperson Robin Pathak.
The airport management admitted that their hands were tied and they could not hire more help because the strikers might attack them.
"We cannot hire more people because we fear that employees may try to harm private contractors if they are asked to take charge of essential services," said Milind Chaddha, airport manager.
While there was chaos inside, about 1,000 strikers outside maintained vigil shouting anti-government slogans.
"No one has gone to work and the people who came at night sat at the car parking area and did not go to work," said Ranvir Singh, regional secretary of the Airport Authority Employees Union (AAEU).
"The Government is playing with people's security as all fire fighters and people of rescue services are on strike," he said.
"The Government should declare these airports non-functional."
Many flights have been taking off and landing without fire services on duty since Wednesday when the strike began.
A ministry source had said on Wednesday: "Although flights took off from most airports, most airports functioned without the basic safety backups."
In wake of the strike, there was heavy security at the Delhi Airport, with CISF, CRPF and Delhi Police forces deployed in large numbers.
Two Indian Airlines flight from Bangalore and Kolkata were delayed in the morning.
In Mumbai newspapers and garbage littered terminal buildings as thousands of workers, including cleaners, remained off the job.
Police maintained heavy bandobast and cordoned off the entry point at the terminal building to facilitate passenger movement.
Two companies of Rapid Action Force and additional police force were deployed at the airport to prevent any untoward incidents, police said.
Police had resorted to lathicharge on Wednesday after protesters started pelting stones and breaking police barricades put up at the entrance of the airport building.
A ten square feet area at the entrance of the airport was completely cordoned off and the striking employees assembled a little distance away from the main gate, police officials said.
Frantic efforts were being made by the authorities at Chennai Airport to normalise cargo delivery operations.
The delivery of cargo has been affected with practically all the 1,500 employees joining the strike in Chennai protesting the privatisation of Delhi and Mumbai airports.
Indian Air Force staff were called in to replace striking workers.
AAI Airport Director S Subramanian said that steps were being taken to normalise cargo delivery operations and by Thursday afternoon, it was expected to become normal with more officers being deputed to work at the cargo complex.
He said there has been no disruption of air services and all the seven morning flights, including three to Delhi and two to Mumbai, left as per schedule.
No flight has been cancelled, he said.
Meanwhile, AAI Employees Union President P Mahendran, said employees, in large numbers, remained near the airport and continued with their demonstration.
He claimed that cargo services were fully affected as many of the officers were not aware of the procedures for clearing the goods.
Flight operation at Kolkata's NSC Bose International Airport remained almost normal, with most of the planes taking off and landing as per schedule till 10 a.m.
However, passenger amenities were badly affected as the strike by AAI employees entered the second day on Thursday.
Airport director VK Monga said flights were operating but many of the facilities for the passengers could not be provided, as the employees did not join their duties.
Hearing that flights were operating normally, passengers started reaching the airport since morning, but they had to face inconvenience in the airport a number of facilities were not available due to the strike, airport sources said.
They had to carry their own luggage as conveyor belts were not working, aero-bridge was not in service, the toilets were stinking, air conditioning system was not functioning properly in some pockets and fire service was affected too, the sources said.
However, air traffic control (ATC) was working making flights operation possible.
Outside the terminal buildings, the striking employees continued their dharna shouting slogans against the Centre's decision to protest against the privatisation of Delhi and Mumbai airports.