Friday, April 29, 2011

Striking Air India pilots remain defiant; ready to go to jail

MUMBAI: Despite the Delhi High Court ordering the striking Air India pilots to get back to work and the airline management threatening stern action and declaring a lock-out, the 850-plus agitating pilots today said they will go ahead with the stir and are willing to go the jail.

"We are more than willing to go jail. Nearly 31,000 Air India employees will also be ready to court arrest because we are serious about saving the national carrier from ruin," Rishab Kapur, General Secretary of the banned Indian Commercial Pilot Associations ( ICPA), told reporters here this evening. The strike entered its third day today.

He demanded a CBI probe into "corruption" in the airline under the leadership of Managing Director Arvind Jadhav.

"We are willing to get back to work provided the Government assures that they will look into the corruption issue raised by us and order a CBI enquiry."

Kapur also demanded to make public portion of the Niira Radia tape that allegedly speaks about the hidden agenda of the Air India management to sell the Government-run airline to a private party.

However, when the media insisted on revealing the name of the private company, Kapur declined to do so and merely said "listen the Niira Radia tape".

"The scam in Air India under the present management is bigger than the 2G scam. We want a CBI probe and sacking of the dictatorial Chairman," he said.

On the AI management's threat to slap ESMA (Essential Service Management Act) and declare a lock out at the company if the pilots do not call off the strike by 5 pm today, Kapur said it seems that the management is "completely confused about how to treat the issues we have raised".

ESMA can only be invoked by the government not a company, he said. Also, since over half a dozen airlines are operating in the country, how can Air India's services be considered as an essential service, he asked.

Asked about pilots disobeying the court order and inviting contempt proceedings, Kapur said he will be present in the Delhi High Court on Monday.

On May 2, the court is scheduled to hear the Air India management's petition seeking contempt of court proceedings against the striking pilots.

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