Airports Authority of India Joint Forum to Protest Privatisation of Airports

In a letter last week, the forum also threatened to resort to agitation from next month by holding lunch hour demonstrations and wearing black badges to protest the move.

Mumbai: The joint forum of AAI unions and association has urged the AAI chairman to convene a meeting to discuss the concerns in details over the handing over of six airports to Gujarat-based conglomerate Adani Group.

In a letter to chairman last week, the forum has also threatened to resort to agitation from next month by holding lunch hour demonstrations and wearing black badges to protest the move.

Last year, the government had decided to privatise airports in Lucknow, Ahmedabad, Jaipur, Mangaluru, Thiruvananthapuram, and Guwahati for operation, management and development through public-private partnership (PPP) model.

In February, Adani Enterprises Ltd (AEL) won the rights to run these six airports after competitive bidding. The government last month said the AAI has issued letters of award for handing over Ahmedabad, Lucknow and Mangaluru airports to AEL after the Cabinet nod.

Moreover, the former AAI chairman and now secretary in the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade, Guruprasad Mohapatra, while leaving the chairman’s office on July 31 had said that the government had plans to exit from 20-25 more airports in the next phase of privatisation.

“Under the banner, we have decided to wear black badges and resort to lunch hours demonstrations in front of Rajiv Gandhi Bhawan (which houses civil aviation ministry) and all the AAI establishments between Sept 2 and Sept 6,” the Forum said in the letter, dated August 23.

Also read: Piece by Piece, the Political Privatisation of Air India is Underway

Stating that the AAI unions and associations had decided to come together under one banner, ‘joint forum of unions and associations of AAI’, to protect the AAI and safeguard the interests of employees beside explaining the impact of the privatisation, the letter said, “the recognised union and associations have raised their voice at various levels but unfortunately, their voices and concerns (remain) unheard.”

The Forum comprises airports authority employees union, airport authority officers association and Indian Airports Kamgar Union.

The forum also termed the government’s move as “arbitrary and unilateral” and said that the “hasty” decision to privatise and lease out six airports have raised several questions before stakeholders as the same was taken without deliberation on the future of the employees and AAI and its impact on the users on the services provided by the private operators.

The copies of the letter have also been sent to the aviation minister and aviation secretary.

“The AAI is generating its own resources within its limited internal resources with all restriction imposed by the central government and without any budgetary support for maintaining the airports including the loss-making besides constructing, developing and maintaining world-class airports such as Chennai and Kolkata as well as the newly constructed Pakyong airport, among others,” it said.

Moreover, the Forum said in the letter, the recent announcement made by the outgoing chairman Mohapatra has put a shadow on the existence of the AAI.

“We sincerely hope that a sympathetic consideration of the concerns of employees will be taken care of by your good self and Government/AAI and (you) will convene a meeting of the forum to discuss the concerns in details and restrain from indulging in privatisation/leasing of any other airports of the authority,” the letter stated.