The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Odds mount, airport firemen join strike

The action, in the countdown to the September 29 shutdown, is at the airport.

With time ticking away, efforts were stepped up to put contingency plans in place. The Airports Authority of India (AAI) has deputed a team from Delhi specialising in communication facilities to work out final strategies.

Plans to fly in officers from smaller sectors to fill in for the agitating employees during Thursday's strike were also discussed.

'We will have contingency plans ready for every area of operation,' said airport director V.K. Monga.

But the AAI's efforts to run operations with air traffic controllers (ATC), some officers and a few extra hands suffered a setback on Monday when the airport fire brigade announced its participation in the strike.

If the fire brigade, which comes under the AAI, does not respond to Thursday's emergency call, the airport authorities will have to tap the state government's fire-fighting machinery and manpower.

'Unless we have adequate manpower and equipment as far as fire services are concerned, the city airport won't be able to fulfil international aviation and flight safety norms,' admitted an official.

The city airport falls under Category 8, which specifies that at least 29 fire service personnel be present with five to seven fire tenders and adequate foam and water to meet any eventuality. The rule specifies that no flight can land unless Category 8 is fulfilled.

All this while, hectic parleys were on between AAI and Joint Forum members in a bid to find a last-minute solution.

Efforts were underway on Monday to rope in some officer-cadre experts from communications and operations to lend their support to the 40 ATCs who will be on duty this Thursday.

'This time, the contingency plan will flop, as we have also made our own plans to make the strike a total success,' warned a spokesperson for the Joint Forum.

'Apart from clearing the overhead flights and taking care of landing and take-off, the ATCs can man the apron area (aircraft stands), but anything more would be too much for them,' admitted a senior AAI official, striving to persuade agitators to call off the strike.

Meanwhile, representatives from the Joint Forum handed over a detailed alternative plan on modernisation of Indian airports to the civil aviation ministry. 'We have told the government that modernisation with money and resources from the AAI coffers is possible. If they want the strike to be called off, they have to take the initiative,' M.K. Ghoshal, convener, Joint Forum, told Metro from Delhi.

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