Strike cripples Indian air traffic movement

Mumbai, September 29:

Air traffic and financial services were badly affected across India on Thursday as over one million workers stayed away from work to protest the government’s free market reforms.

All domestic airlines were forced to cancel or curtail services on major routes as airport workers struck work to protest the privatisation of Delhi and Mumbai airports.

Some 20,000 workers of the state-run Airports Authority of India (AAI), which manages 124 airports in the country, were on a daylong strike, badly affecting domestic as well as international aviation services in Asia’s third largest economy. “The strike is a complete success,” said Nitin Jadhav, joint secretary of the Airports Authority of India Employees Union. “Despite the government’s attempt to seek outside help to maintain normal operations, all services have been badly affected,” Jadhav told reporters here.

“We have not called for the strike for our personal gains. We want to highlight the negative effects of the privatisation of airports. Our struggle will continue against the move.”

Long queues of passengers were seen at the domestic airport of the country’s financial capital to cancel their tickets. Airlines like Jet Airways, Air Sahara and Indian Airlines cancelled many of their flight services to and from Mumbai,that manages 500 flights every day. In Delhi, Air Deccan has cancelled its flight to Amritsar and Kolkata.

Jet Airways and Air Sahara also cancelled all their flights to and from Kolkata and many other eastern Indian cities. Kingfisher Airlines curtailed daily services by 25 per cent. “I had to go to Kolkata today to attend a conference but there aren’t any service to that city from here,” said Vikas Dandekar, a harried retail industry executive.

The civil aviation ministry on Wednesday said a detailed contingency plan had been worked out to ensure the normal functioning of airports. Under the plan, officers from Indian Air Force, Navy and Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd were deployed at select busy airports. Financial services across the country were also hit as nearly one million public sector bank employees went on a nationwide strike to protest the proposals to privatise state-run banks.

The strike crippled all banking transactions, including clearance of cheques across the country. “The response to the strike is better than what we had expected. We have got very encouraging reports from all over the country,” said Peter Fernandez, secretary of the All India Bank Officers’ Confederation (AIBOC).

Officers and workmen of public sector banks and regional rural banks participated in the strike, said Fernandez, adding that officials in select private sector and foreign banks had also supported the stir. Besides AIBOC, eight other bank employees’ unions including All India Bank Employees’ Association, National Confederation of Bank Employees, and Bank Employees’ Federation of India supported the strike call.