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AI pilots remain defiant; ready to go to jail

CNN-IBN
Apr 29, 2011 at 08:10pm IST

New Delhi: For the third day on Friday Air India passengers face the nightmare as the erstwhile Indian Airlines pilots continue to strike despite a refusal by the Delhi High Court to lift an order by the AI management derecognising the pilots' association.

The agitating pilots on Friday 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 in Mumbai.

"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," he said.

"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 added.

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 on Friday, 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.

Out of the 1600 odd pilots, about 660 in number have stopped work. They are being supported by almost 70 pilots who are known as 'management pilots'.

All in all more than 700 pilots have stopped flying, inconveniencing thousands of passengers.

With as many as 120 flights being cancelled on Thursday, fares have shot up. Air India is not taking bookings for 5 days in order to deal with the backlog.

However, the Civil Aviation Ministry has decided not to meet the Pilots' association until the strike is called off.

Meanwhile, to clear the extra rush of passengers in view of non-availability of Air India services, Eastern Railway will run an additional Rajdhani type superfast special train from Sealdah to New Delhi on Saturday.

The special train will start from Sealdah at 6.40 pm and reach New Delhi at 11.00 am on Sunday, an Eastern Railway release said on Friday.

Rajdhani fare will be charged for the journey and reservation will be available from all computerised railway reservation counters.

The train will stop at Dhanbad, Mughalsarai, Kanpur Central and New Delhi.

(With additional information from PTI)

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