Image for representational purpose only. Courtesy: Livemint
Thousands of Airports Authority of India (AAI) employees and officers under a joint forum held protest demonstrations at the AAI headquarters in New Delhi and at airports across India on Monday, September 2. The employees are protesting against the government’s decision to hand over six profit-making airports to Adani Group. The six airports are Ahmedabad, Jaipur, Lucknow, Guwahati, Mangaluru, and Thiruvananthapuram.
The hour-long peaceful demonstrations were organised during the lunch time, without causing any disruptions in the work. The employees had earlier informed the Chairman of AAI that they will wear black badges and organise protest demonstrations at all AAI establishments.
Talking to NewsClick, Balraj Singh Ahlawat, the general secretary of Airport Authority Employees Union, and convenor of the joint forum, said, “We have seen how the privatisation has affected the Delhi and Mumbai Airports. Instead of making things better for the country and people at large as far as facilitation, providing additional employment to society, participation in the development of aviation infrastructure in the country, etc. are concerned, the privatisation has led to monopolistic operation, exploitation of employees and additional burden on the general public.”
Ahlawat added, “When Delhi and Mumbai airports were privatised, the AAI employees working at those airports were asked to resign, and join as private employees. Most of the employees did not want to do this, and opted to remain with the Government of India.” He said that as a result, the employees who continued working with AAI were transferred to smaller airports like Dehradun, Pant Nagar, and Kishangarh, and were forced to move away from their families.
The joint forum on August 23 wrote a letter to the Chairman of AAI, pointing out the issues being faced by the employees because of the privatisation. The letter said, “The hasty decision to privatise six airports has raised several questions in the minds of the stakeholders, as the decision was taken without deliberation on the future of the employees and AAI and its impact on customers.”
The letter added, “It may be noticed that the AAI is generating its own resources within its limited internal resources, despite all the restrictions imposed by the central government and without any budgetary support for maintaining the airports, including the loss making ones, besides constructing, developing and maintaining world-class airports like Chennai, Kolkata, and the newly constructed Pakyong and Allahabad airports.”
In a letter written to Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Puri in July, 2019, the joint forum had pointed out that they do not receive any financial support from the government of India. The letter said, “There is no financial support from the Government of India or any other sources. Our financial position has further been hard hit due to inability of Air India to clear our dues and other airlines, which have either folded their business and/or are at the verge of complete closure. The financial effect on AAI due to these developments is never compensated in any form.”
The joint forum is set to organise demonstrations again on September 6, the letter informed the Chairman. They said in the letter, “We sincerely hope that a sympathetic consideration of the concerns of employees will be taken care of by your good self and Government/AAI will convene a meeting of the forum to discuss the concern in detail for its immediate resolution and restrain from indulging in privatisation/leasing of any other airports of the Authority.”
Ahlawat told NewsClick, “After September 6, we will take our protest to Jantar Mantar, we will make sure our voice reaches the Prime Minister. AAI employees cannot continue to suffer like this.”