AAI staff strikes on, but traffic is smooth so far

New Delhi, Feb 1 | Updated: Feb 2 2006, 05:30am hrs
The government on Wednesday warned it could look into the possibility of imposing the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) if the strike by Airport Authority of India (AAI) employees continues for long. It also met airline operators to consider a contingency plan.

Despite 3,000-odd AAI employees striking work in Mumbai, air traffic was near normal. Mumbai police resorted to lathi-charge to disperse agitating employees who, it claimed, indulged in stone-pelting and disrupting passenger movements. The employees dispersed for a while only to stage a sit-in a little later.

Flight schedules, however, remained largely unaffected throughout the country except in Kolkata, where the Air Traffic Controller declared the airport non-operational. State-owned Indian Airlines and other private airlines had to cancel their flights to Kolkata.

As of now there is no plan to impose ESMA. We are watching the situation. If required, we will think about it, civil aviation secretary Ajay Prasad told reporters on Wednesday.

AAI officers, air traffic controllers, engineers and the security staff have stayed away from the strike, though the International Airports Authority of India Officers Association (IAAI) has moved the Supreme Court on the governments decision to modernise airports.

According to Mr Prasad, the ministry has not made any direct contact with the employee unions since the strike began this morning. We had a meeting with the unions day before yesterday. We went into all the issues and told them the restructuring of the two airports will not affect jobs, he said, adding, not a single individual will lose job.

AAI authorities in Delhi said contingency measures taken by them had ensured smooth operations. No disruption or delay in flight operations have been reported so far, AAI spokesperson Premnath said.

Meanwhile, the IAAI has moved the Supreme court against a Delhi High Court verdict dismissing its petition challenging the governments decision to allow 74% private equity in joint ventures for modernisation of airports. In an SLP filed in the apex court, the association said, the High Court erred in holding that the government could allow 74% private equity in JVs under section 12(3)(R) of the AAI Act through an executive order.