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Turbulence before the take-off

Agitating workers attacked VIP vehicles on Thursday as the strike by Airports Authority of India (AAI) employees entered the second day, hitting cargo and hospitality services at airports across the country.

india Updated: Feb 03, 2006 02:03 IST

Agitating workers attacked VIP vehicles on Thursday as the strike by Airports Authority of India (AAI) employees entered the second day, hitting cargo and hospitality services at airports across the country.

Around 300-odd AAI employees charged at former BJP president Venkaiah Naidu’s car at the Delhi Airport. Fortunately, some security personnel helped the leader get inside the terminal building safely. Angry employees deflated the BJP leader’s car tyres and kept banging on it with their fists.

Anger was quite visible on Day Two. Former Chattisgarh CM Ajit Jogi was also mobbed. The CISF counter at the arrival lounge of Terminal IB was smashed. Some agitating workers barged into the Airport director's office and raised slogans. A small fire was reported at the departure lounge but AAI workers stopped the fire tender from entering the complex.

Nearly a dozen odd flights were delayed as several passengers couldn't reach the airport on time. The protestors had blocked roads leading to the Airport.

Security agencies fear matters could be worse on Friday. With the high court banning any protests within 500 metres of the airport, there is a strong chance of the employees blocking the Ulanbator Marg which connects the airport with NH8. Employees looked uncontrollable in the absence of the top union leaders.

The employees blocked both the entry and exit of the domestic airport — terminal IA and IB from 10.15 a.m. to 5.30 p.m. In the morning, there was a massive traffic at Dhaula Kuan as the employees gathered outside the Mehram Nagar temple.

Passengers had to walk up to a km to reach the terminal. While taxi drivers quoted arbitrary fares, even the locals joined the party — many acting as coolies.

There was trouble on Wednesday night as well. Tyres of several fire-tending vehicles and ambulances were deflated. Conveyor belts were switched off and aerobridges malfunctioned. These problems were sorted out soon.

A major problem for the security personnel has been that many of the striking employees, who live near the airport in areas like Nangal Dairy, Palam village, Mehram Nagar (East), have been bringing along with them friends and relatives to the airport. This is creating more problems.

Road blockade to continue: AAI union

AAI Employee Union’s Jai Lal said that the road blockade will continue. “The fire service employees are also on strike,” Lal added. “The Indian Air Force is incapable of handling civilian aircraft related fires.

“The ministry is putting the lives of the passengers in danger," he said. But officials say the IAF is prepared for any eventuality and refuted claims that the AAI's fire service is on strike. Union members claimed that they had received support from JNU Students Union and several other trade unions.

On Thursday, employees turned the garbage bins over again and dirtied the toilets. There were strict instructions to security personnel not to allow the employees inside the terminal buildings. Airport officials worked round the clock and devised alternate plans to ease the passenger movement. There were no problems at the international airport. "With their behaviour, they have reinforced the belief that they would have been unable to run a modern airport," said Rohan Sharma, a passenger.

First Published: Feb 03, 2006 01:38 IST