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Air India pilot’s strike: Same old story. Taxpayers left holding the bag

Air India and members of the striking Indian Pilots Guild (IPG) appear to have reached an “agreement”. For more than 58 days, the pilots have defied the courts and struck work.

After causing hundred of crores (billions) worth of additional losses to the national carrier, that is already on life support with taxpayer money, the pilots decided to call off their strike after airline management assured the court that it would consider the grievances of the pilots “sympathetically”.

Through the strike, the airline management, backed by the civil aviation minister Mr. Ajit Singh took a hard stand and sacked 101 pilots. The IPG, led by a political lackey Jitendra Awadh of the NCP, had lost all public sympathy and support. Even a desperate move of a “fast undo death” did not produce any results.

Justifying the calls of analysts for the airline to truncate and re-jig its network, Air India reported performance improvements during the strike.

The strikers were all but beaten into submission, but they insisted on the sacked 101 pilots being taken back before calling off the strike.

Now comes the politics. The NCP of which Mr. Awadh is a member, is a very strong component of the ruling UPA coalition with former civil aviation minister Praful Patel and the formidable Maharashtra strong-man Sharad Pawar as its stalwarts. Mr. Ajit Singh with his small RLD party are but minnows, in a pool full of sharks. You do not need to be experienced in skullduggery to see how public money is being squandered with the political influences at work in support of the labour aristocracy that rules Air India.

The Air India management needs plausible deniability. As per news reports

The pilots decided to call off their strike after AI management assured the court that it would consider the grievances of the pilots “sympathetically”. “Serious efforts have been made to settle dispute and the counsel for the parties have assured the court that their respective clients would be extending full cooperation in this regard.”

“The AI management shall sympathetically consider the grievances of the pilots including the aspect of reinstatement of those pilots who were terminated as a consequence to their strike,” Justice Khetrapal said while disposing of the pilots’ plea for a direction to the management to take back the 101 sacked pilots, including the 10 office-bearers of the Indian Pilots Guild.

After 58 days of misery to everyone, and billions of rupees being lost, where are we?

The airline will take back all the pilots including the sacked ones. The politicians and their labour aristocracy will remain emboldened and will hold the airline, and through it, we, the taxpayers, to ransom at their whim and fancy. The management will remain emasculated. Our money will continue to be ploughed and squandered.

About Devesh Agarwal

A electronics and automotive product management, marketing and branding expert, he was awarded a silver medal at the Lockheed Martin innovation competition 2010. He is ranked 6th on Mashable's list of aviation pros on Twitter and in addition to Bangalore Aviation, he has contributed to leading publications like Aviation Week, Conde Nast Traveller India, The Economic Times, and The Mint (a Wall Street Journal content partner). He remains a frequent flier and shares the good, the bad, and the ugly about the Indian aviation industry without fear or favour.

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