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Monday , January 7 , 2013
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Airport in a mess as union poll takes toll

Dirty and flooded toilets, garbage piled up in front of check-in counters, missing-in-action trolleys, flights delayed because of conveyor belts lying defunct — Calcutta airport has touched a new low in the run-up to the staff union poll.

Sources said almost the entire army of Group C and D employees — responsible for the upkeep — has been staying away from work on the pretext of being busy with the campaign for the January 29 poll.

“With seniors busy to meet the January deadline for the inauguration of the integrated terminal, there is no one to keep tabs on the Group C and D staff and ensure that they work,” said a senior official.

Delhi-based businessperson Sita Raina got a taste of the state of affairs twice in the past few days — on December 24, when she arrived to visit family members, and January 3, when she left. “The toilets in both the arrival and departure lounges were flooded and filthy,” said Raina. “I spotted a few employees but when I approached them with the problem, they went away without bothering to reply.”

Last weekend, one of the departure conveyor belts at the international terminal broke down in the morning. “There was no maintenance staff for two hours,” said an official.

“There is also a severe shortage of trolleys as a section of the Group C/D staff is responsible for keeping an eye on trolley retrievers,” the official pointed out.

City-based businessman Rajesh Gidwani, who arrived from Bangkok on AirAsia flight about a week back, couldn’t find a trolley for 20 minutes. “Finally, an airline official helped me find one,” he said.

“We have received many written complaints from passengers about the filth and stench and unavailability of trolleys. Several domestic and international airlines have complained that garbage is piling up in front of check-in counters. We are not being able to do anything as the Group C/D employees, who look after maintenance, are not around,” an airports official told Metro on Sunday.

Most Group C and D employees, the official pointed out, are leaving the terminals immediately after reporting for work, saying they are busy with the Airports Authority of India Employees’ Union poll.

Staff organisations backed by the CPM and Trinamul blamed each other for the sorry state of the airport.

“Trinamul supporters are staying away from work to give the airport a bad name and pave the way for its privatisation,” said Dipankar Ghosh, general secretary of the union, now backed by the CPM.

“For years the CPM-backed group has been telling its loyalists not to work. We are trying to improve the work culture,” said Pradip Sikdar, leading the Trinamul-backed faction that is trying to wrest power.