Air India pilots go the Anna way


A section of agitating Air India pilots launched an indefinite “Anna-type” hunger strike here at Jantar Mantar on Sunday demanding the Union Civil Aviation Ministry to reinstate 101 of their sacked colleagues and restore recognition to the Indian Pilots’ Guild (IPG) as a trade union.

The flag carrier airline’s management had terminated the pilots’ services for taking mass sick leave since May 7 to protest against the move to train pilots from erstwhile Indian Airlines in the merged entity on the soon-to-be-inducted Boeing-787 Dreamliner.

Eleven members of the IPG sat on fast on Sunday and were supported by their colleagues and family members. “We are looking forward to ending this protest as soon as possible, but we will not return to work till our 101 sacked colleagues are reinstated,” said captain Aditya Singh Dhillon, who is leading the strike.

When asked whether the hunger strike will provide a solution to the 48-day agitation, Aditya said: “I don’t know, but we are not left with any other option. It seems as if the government is not interested in looking for a solution to the crisis. They claim that we won’t be victimised, but we are not sure if we can trust their claims,” he said.

He emphasised that recognition to the IPG as a trade union must be restored as it would help deal with the demands of the pilots concerned. “I’m not sure about the government’s offer to reinstate our sacked colleagues on case-to-case basis. Can anyone confirm how they plan to ask 101 of them to meet them one at a time and how much time will it take? I believe it may take two months, 20 months or over three years, nobody can confirm the time required for the case-to-case analysis,” Aditya added.

He said the airline must stop its procedures to hire 100 fresh pilots to run its international operations. Sources say the airline has issued advertisements for recruiting new pilots, both expats and locals.

The strike may seem as a surprise as Union Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh had on June 6 invited the pilots to resume their duties. “We won’t wait for them forever. We have given a chance to sacked pilots that they can also return and we will take them back on a case-to-case basis,” the minister had said.

The 48-day strike has led Air India to curtail its international long-haul flight schedule and reportedly caused a revenue loss of Rs 530 crores.


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