Thousands of employees of the Airports Authority of India (AAI) launched a relay hunger strike across the country to protest against the government's move to privatise 6 airports.
Associated with various unions of the AAI, the employees have formed a joint forum and started a three day long strike in front of the Civil Aviation Ministry in Delhi and at AAI offices across the country.
"We are protesting against the Civil Aviation Ministry's move to privatise six airports of Chennai, Kolkata, Guwahati, Jaipur, Ahmedabad and Lucknow. These are being privatized after the AAI invested crores into modernisation of these airports." said B S Ahlawat, General Secretary of Airports Authority Employees' Union, which is leading the agitation. Further on, he pointed out that employees of Delhi and Mumbai airports who have been rendered without work as a result of the privatization of those airports, have still to be deployed. "If they fail to listen to us, then we would be forced to intensify our action by going on strike or gherao of AAI officials."
As reported earlier in MEL, the Cabinet had decided in early September to privatise these 6 airports by allowing private parties to pick up 100 per cent equity stake in operation and management of these airports through the public-private partnership (PPP) mode. The successful bidder is supposed to enter into partnership with the state-run airport operator AAI on a 30-year lease to operate, manage and develop facilities at these airports. The scope of the project includes the entire airport, including the airside and city side facilities.
Prospective private parties have already tried to survey the Chennai airport, which has been vigorously opposed by the over 2000 workers of the AAI running Chennai airport. Chennai Airport has seen numerous militant protest actions in this period.
MEL fully supports the struggle of the AAI workers against privatization. The move to privatise these airports must be vigorously opposed by the entire working class.
Privatisation of Delhi and Mumbai Airports, as well as of Hyderabad, Bangaluru and Kochi, were carried out in the teeth of opposition of the workers. What has been the experience of this privatization? The new owners have got access to the enormous resources of the AAI, at throwaway prices, including priceless land. Soon after privatization, they have the raised the user fees for the airports, both for the passengers, as well as the airlines, to such an extent that airlines today are amongst those opposing the current privatization moves. Privatisation of these airports has been one of the factors that has dealt a body blow to the low cost airlines, apart from steep hike in aviation fuel.
In the face of opposition of AAI workers to the privatization of those airports, the government had agreed that AAI would be given responsibility for the modernization of the remaining airports, including Kolkota and Chennai. The six airports that have been now put forward for sale, have been modernized at huge cost by the AAI. What then is the reason to sell them? Obviously, neither the interests of the travelling public, nor the airlines that use these airports, nor the workers of AAI, nor the people of India at large, whose tax money has been used for building as well as modernizing these airports, count for the government. It is the interests of definite capitalists involved in the airport construction industry, as well as their agents in the government, that have dictated this move. This shows the utter criminality of the UPA government, as well as the fact that it is thoroughly anti worker and anti national.