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  • Published 22.09.04

Calcutta airport, September 27: the radars are down, along with the navigational aides, the air traffic control (ATC) towers are unmanned, flights are grounded?

Monday morning blues will hit Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport hard as 3,000-plus employees of the Airports Authority of India (AAI) go on mass casual leave to protest the privatisation of Indian airports.

The AAI employees in Calcutta ? along with 20,000 others from all over the country ? will observe September 27 as the first phase of protest against the privatisation of Mumbai and Delhi airports, followed by 15 others.

More than 50 flights use the airport tarmac every day, but with employees determined to stay away from work next Monday, all operations are expected to come to a standstill.

?All AAI employees in every small and big city, including Calcutta, have decided to opt for mass casual leave on September 27. The ball is now in the court of the government,? Y.P. Gautam, joint convener of the newly-formed Joint Action Forum and general secretary of the AAI Officers Association, told Metro from Delhi.

AAI chairman K. Ramalingam, in a last-ditch effort, has asked all officer-cadre employees to distance themselves immediately from the mass leave.

?If the forum goes ahead with its plan, then everything will collapse for a day,? said a senior general manager at the city airport.

Senior AAI officials in Calcutta said efforts are underway to persuade the forum to withdraw the one-day mass leave. But with no signs of the employees yielding, some recently-retired employees may be asked to volunteer for work on Monday.

The BJP-led government had decided to spend around Rs 8,000 to Rs 10,000 crore on Mumbai and Delhi airports by involving private players with over 70 per cent stake.

?The present government, too, is talking on the same line,? says Aparesh Das, regional secretary of the AAI Employees Union and convener of the city?s action forum.

Manoj Sengupta, regional secretary of the AAI Officers Association, termed it a violation of the common minimum programme (CMP) clause that no profit-making government sector unit would be privatised. ?The aviation sector is growing at a steady 10-12 per cent rate, especially at Delhi and Mumbai,? asserted Sengupta.