Be firm with AAI unions

Updated: Feb 2 2006, 05:30am hrs
The Left-sponsored strike at the Airports Auth-ority of India highlights the sad fact that civil society in India has ceased to assert itself in its own long-term interests, and in the interests of the country. When the MCD is forced by the courts to demolish properties that have come up in blatant disregard of the law, and driven purely by greed and not by need, the lawbreakers shout about their rights and seek to regularise what is fundamentally disastrous for the cityand we sit by and watch passively. When criminal and incompetent politicians get appointed to the Cabinet, we sit back in silence and give no voice to our opposition.

In this case, too, the media is highlighting the grievances of Left politicians and unionised labour, while the countrys priorities are not highlighted. Everybody recognises the desperate shortage of aviation infrastructure and the fact that it is hitting us very heavily in economic terms. Yet, nobody talks about the cost of delays. Is the short-term fate of 5,000-6,000 airport employees more important than the crying needs of the Indian economy The interests of the workers should certainly be looked at, but should it hold up a priority project that is already woefully late

Airport employees are claiming they have the wherewithal to create a world-class airport themselves. This is simply not true. None of them have been exposed to the latest terminal design skills or to the new technologies being built into airport operations abroad. What do they have to back their claim that they are world class

Has AAI created any facility that stands the world class test While this may not be their fault as government functioning has restricted their professional growth, surely airport employees must recognise their limitations!

The labour and organisational productivity and efficiency levels in the Indian airports are there for all to see. Can we afford to continue to accept this and not ensure it is upgraded substantially Since AAI staff needs to get much more efficient and productive, even the airport unions need to acknowledge the need to reduce staff and significantly change worker attitudes. Why does nobody ask the trade unions what they promise on this front There are clear international indices of productivity where Indian airports are extremely deficient. Why are these not raised by the people who suffer Why do we not seek or hear the voice of the other stakeholders in our airports, starting with our millions of air travellers and cargo users

The writer is former CMD, International Airports Authority of India