People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 24

June 13, 2010


Moves Afoot to Destroy Air India


AT present a grave situation persists in Air India due to the highhanded policy adopted by the chairman of the undertaking, and the very existence of this premier public sector undertaking would be at stake if this situation is allowed to continue.


This is the way the CITU vice president and CPI(M) Polit Bureau member, Dr M K Pandhe, sought to draw the prime ministerís attention to the situation in Air India.


Dr Pandheís letter to Dr Manmohan Singh, written on May 29 in this connection, said it was a matter of great concern to the trade union movement in India that the reports of the Standing Committee of Parliament on Transport and Tourism as well as of the Committee on Public Sector Undertakings have indicted the Ministry of Civil Aviation as well as Air India management for the present malaise in Air India. However, the letter pointed out, both of them have failed to take any action in the matter. Dr Pandhe therefore urged the prime minister to find out why no action was being taken on both these reports by the Ministry of Civil Aviation and Air India management.


The letter pointed out that if a high power enquiry were conducted, one would find that both the minister for civil aviation and the Air India chairman are doing everything to promote private sector companies in civil aviation and damaging the interest of the Air India. The present chairman of Air India is openly promoting communal elements in the organisation and suppressing the well established and recognised unions in it.


Further, the present chairman has destroyed the bipartite relations in this public sector undertaking and behaving in an autocratic manner, even with the senior executives of the company. Dr Pandhe said he has received several complains personally from such executives of Air India. There is thus an urgent need to probe into the links developed by the Air India CMD with some private concerns at the cost of the public sector undertaking.


Dr Pandhe also drew the prime ministerís attention to the fact that both Indian Airlines and Air India were breaking even when they were merged. Then, how is it that the new entity after the merger has incurred heavy losses? The reports of the Standing Committee and COPU have thrown some light on the question but they are being nonchalantly ignored by the minister of civil aviation and the CMD of Air India.


The present chairman has also derecognised the major unions and sealed their offices while a large number of employees have been summarily dismissed or suspended.


The letter told the prime minister that the trade union movement in India would not remain a silent spectator on the blatant suppression of trade union rights in Air India. The policies pursued by the minister of civil aviation as well as the Air India chairman are clearly directed to give advantage to the private sector companies and close down this premier public undertaking in India.


Attention has also been drawn to the fact that no improvement in the living conditions of the employees has taken place since January 1, 2007 while the management unilaterally withdrew several of the existing benefits without even discussing with the trade unions. The employees were not even paid bonus last year; yet the employees remained peaceful and cooperated with the management to improve the performance of the undertaking. It is another thing that the CMD takes this cooperative attitude of the employees as their weakness and has been trampling underfoot the legitimate demands of the employees.


It is now known that the Air India employees would resort to one day strike on June 12 to protest against the highhanded policy of the CMD, as they are agitated because of large scale victimisation. It is therefore better that all victimisation measures must be withdrawn and recognition of the union restored. Passengers will be greatly inconvenienced if the strike materialises but, Dr Pandhe categorically said, the management of Air India would be solely responsible for that. He has expressed the hope that the prime minister would view these developments with concern and intervene in the dispute so that normalcy is restored and Air India can march ahead despite unhealthy competition indulged in by the private civil aviation companies.