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Forces on airport standby

New Delhi, Sept. 27: The government today came up with a contingency plan to beat Thursday’s nationwide airport strike, asking air force and navy personnel to stand by.

The government also clarified that the strike call by some 20,000 workers will not affect air traffic control or radio communications, navigation and surveillance, as personnel manning these services are not joining the strike. Nor are the officers.

“Those joining the strike are mostly technicians, white-collar staff and support service workers.... They don’t really affect the core airport functions,” said Airports Authority of India (AAI) adviser Robin Pathak.

The AAI plans to get the officers to handle vital functions such as manning aerobridges at Delhi, Calcutta and Mumbai airports, while engineers and technicians from Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) are being deployed for technical jobs.

The AAI has promised that not only the metro airports but even the smaller ones will function.

Baggage-handling and housekeeping at airports are outsourced and so will not be affected but supervising could be. Which means passengers with heavy baggage had better watch out.

Ground handling of passengers is the job of individual airlines, and the AAI insists that no airline staff will be on strike. “We are going to maintain our entire schedule... our assessment is that the strike will not impact flight services,” an Indian Airlines spokesperson said.

Sahara Airlines said: “As of now, we plan a full schedule.... We will, however, take stock tomorrow after talking to the government.”

An AAI statement issued tonight said: “A contingency plan had been drawn for smooth operation'. Also, to augment the strength of operational units, assistance has been sought from IAF, Navy and HAL and other agencies to deal with exigencies.”

The contingency plan will see fire brigade personnel trained to handle airport emergencies ' backed up by fire engines from state fire services ' being positioned in case of any need.

Raytheon landing guides have been checked to make sure they are functioning properly and have not been sabotaged. Installations normally left unguarded have been sealed to ensure they are not touched by the strikers.

“Provisions have also been made for battery back-up and mobile generators,” the AAI statement said.

A round-the-clock central control room has been set up and is operational at the AAI headquarters to oversee the contingency plan.

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