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Air India pilots continue hunger strike, demand 'justice'

Air India

June 26, 2012 - New Delhi

Air India (AI) pilots remained adamant on their demands related to career progression and other issues on the third day of their hunger strike and demanded 'justice' from the government.

Pilots of the national carrier criticized the Ministry of Civil Aviation for turning a deaf ear to their woes, and said that the services of the pilots were terminated unlawfully.

"There is only one cry, one demand that we want justice. We have not asked for any monetary gains, we have just asked for a career progression, which was a justified demand and because we asked for a justified demand, hundred of my brothers have been terminated," said Rohit Kapahi, one of the protesting pilots.

"Tell me one thing that till date there is a loss of one lakh crore rupees on Air India, has anybody from the management been terminated or been labelled to say who is responsible for this loss? If not so, then what greater sin have I done that me and my brothers have been terminated unlawfully, without following any law," he added.

The protesting pilots said that they want to return to work along with all their colleagues. However, they want that the government to first look into all their demands.

The striking pilots said that if their demands were fulfilled, they would resume work the very next day.

"The minister (Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh) gave a very insensitive statement yesterday that this hunger strike is good for the health of the pilots. I would like to say that our health is fine, but the health of Air India is poor and we are worried about it," said Sumit Dheer, another protesting pilot.

"We have two demands, the 101 pilots that have been terminated should be reinstated and the Indian Pilots Guild should be given recognition unconditionally. We are ready to join work tomorrow morning," he added.

Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh had earlier on Monday termed the indefinite hunger strike by a section of agitating Air India pilots to be illegal, and urged them to join their duties with immediate effect.

"The place of a pilot is in the cockpit, not on a strike. They should fly the passengers. They have got experience and a good job. There is no issue. Why don't they return to work?" asked Singh.

"We have had several rounds of talks. I am saying through the press that your strike is illegal, you have no issues and we want you to join duty again. There will be no victimization. You are creating trouble for the passengers, you yourselves are troubled. What will be the result of this strike?" he added.

When asked what will the government do to save Air India, Singh said: "The government has formulated a turnaround plan in which we are giving Rs. 30,000 crores. The performance standards will be met. This is not an easy task, because Air India's financial condition is very poor."

"The pilots should also think about this that if there will be no Air India, then they will also have no work," he added.

In a bid to mount pressure on the government to come to the negotiating table, 11 striking pilots of Air India went on an indefinite hunger strike here earlier on Sunday, seeking the reinstatement of 101 sacked pilots and recognition of the Indian Pilots' Guild (IPG).

The Air India pilots stir was to highlight their demands for career progression and other issues such as training of pilots from the erstwhile Indian Airlines (that was merged with Air India) to fly the Boeing-787 Dreamliner aircraft, to be procured shortly.

The pilots said that the management had refused to have a dialogue with them; as such this was one of the ways to draw the attention of the concerned authorities with an aim to end the impasse.

Pilots have insisted that they would go back to work, but the management must take back all the pilots and start discussion with the unions so that normalcy can be resumed.


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