October 3, 2005

Strikes galore today

New Delhi/Bangalore: Flights grounded, post offices closed, banks and insurance offices shut, train services disrupted. Get set for the mother of all strikes on Thursday as tens of thousands of workers from industry, banks, insurance, airports, posts, railways, oil, petroleum, steel and textile companies as also central and state government employees are going on a 24-hour strike called by the Left-affiliated central trade unions.
   The strike has been called to protest the economic policies, disinvestment, dilution of labour laws and the vote by the government against Iran.
   Air services are also likely to be hit across the country and nearly paralysed in Kolkata by a 24-hour strike by 20,000 airport employees from midnight to protest privatisation of Delhi and Mumbai airports.
   Panicky passengers pulled out at the last moment deciding against taking chancy flights on Thursday and seeing the drop in demand, most domestic airlines curtailed flights on arterial routes between Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata. Bookings for Thursday plummeted by up to 15%. The huge cancellations have forced Indian Airlines to cancel nearly 25 flights, while Jet Airways, Air Sahara and Kingfisher Airlines have cancelled and clubbed nearly 20-25% of their daily operations.
   “We have rescheduled and curtailed flights on September 29 in preparation for the planned strike across airports in India. On an average, 25% of Kingfisher Airlines flights operating on September 29 have been cancelled,” said Vijay Mallya, chairman of Kingfisher.
   Air-India has cancelled two terminator services to London from Delhi and Mumbai.
   However, flights from Bangalore are expected to be normal. Airport sources said all contingency plans have been worked out and only flights to Kolkata are being cancelled. Flights on the Bangalore-Mumbai, Bangalore-Chennai and Bangalore-Delhi sectors will operate without any change. An IAF Training Command spokesman said that 152 ATC personnel and support staff have been deployed and kept ready to take over at Hyderabad, Bangalore, Chennai and Calicut airports. They have been airlifted to the respective airports.
   To meet the situation, the ministry has drafted the services of IAF, HAL and Navy personnel.


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