Opposing the government plan to hand over six leading Airports Authority of India-run airports to private players, its employees union has asked the government to hand over smaller airports to them and not those where huge investment has already been made.
The union has also threatened a nation-wide four-day relay hunger strike from October 22 as a part of their ongoing agitation, which started earlier this month by sporting black ribbons, to protest the privatisation move.
The aviation ministry recently decided to hand over the AAI-run Kolkata, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Lucknow, Jaipur and Guwahati airports to private companies despite opposition from the unions, after investing over Rs 5,000 crore of public funds for their modernisation.
"The government says it plans to develop a network of 100 smaller airports. So, why it should not ask private companies to develop them instead of giving the revenue generating ones to corporates," Airports Authority of India (AAI) Employees Union General Secretary Balraj Singh Ahlawat told PTI.
Alleging that the government wants AAI to develop only those airports which would hardly have any traffic or revenue, Ahlawat said, "Our revenue has already gone down substantially due to privatisation of Delhi and Mumbai airports, which were the backbone of AAI."
As part of the agitation, the union also plans to organise a candle march across all government-run airports on October 21, Ahlawat said, adding, "From the next day we will observe relay hunger strike for four days."
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh while laying the foundation stone of the Kishengarh airport near Ajmer recently had said that "an ambitious scheme to develop a network of 100 smaller airports is being implemented".
Focus earlier was on developing airports in metro cities and now more than 100 airports will be set up in small towns and cities, Singh had said.
The AAI manages 125 airports with a manpower of around 18,000, but just a handful of profitable major airports, which includes these six airports.
"We will continue opposing because the privatisation of Delhi and Mumbai airports has neither helped the passengers nor the government," Ahlawat said.