The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Tourists in spot as plans go awry

Bagdogra, Feb. 1: The stop-work launched by the airport employees throughout the country today disrupted air traffic at Bagdogra, leading to long delays and cancellation of a flight to Calcutta.

An Air Deccan flight to Calcutta was cancelled while a Jet Airways plane to the same destination was delayed by about four-and-half hours, leaving after many misinformed passengers had cancelled their tickets. Two other flights to Delhi and most incoming ones were also delayed.

'I had to catch a plane to Bangkok from Calcutta this evening, but the delay has upset my travel plans. It is somewhat irritating,' said Jonathan Lovett, an American tourist, on his way back from Darjeeling.

Another group of tourists ' NRIs from England and America ' were seen frantically making arrangements to leave the airport for the NJP railway station to board a train to Calcutta. 'We have to reach Calcutta tomorrow since we have to catch flights to London and New York. Our agent advised us to get the plane tickets cancelled since flights were not being allowed to land at the airport there,' said Sunny, a marketing manager from Cornwall in England. As things turned out, Sunny's Jet Airways flight did finally take off, but a good four-and-half hours late, at 6.20 pm instead of 1.50 pm.

Even as harried passengers went about trying to make alternative arrangements, members of the Bagdogra branch of the Airports Authority of India Employees' Union sat at a dharna outside the airport terminus.

'Because of our stop-work, airport services like water supply, electricity, baggage-handling and cleaning were affected,' said Biplab Das, the union secretary. But the changes and cancellation in flights were a result of more intense agitation at Delhi and Calcutta airports.

Nirmal Biswas, president of the AAI Employees' Union, Northeastern Region, accused the Union government of going against the ruling UPA's common minimum programme by seeking to privatise profit-making concerns. 'The AAI makes an annual profit of about Rs 5 to 6 crore, and has a fund of Rs 3,000 crore. Besides, the government has not given us an opportunity to carry out modernisation plans at the airports,' he claimed.

The nation-wide stop-work has been organised by airport employees to protest against the government decision to award modernisation contracts of Delhi and Calcutta airports to private parties. The Delhi contract has been bagged by GMR-Frankfurt and the Mumbai by GVK-South African Airports.

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