Today's Newspaper

Staff offer sacrifice to save sinking Maharaja

| | New Delhi

While the Government is moving towards disinvestment of Air India, the employees of the national carrier are ready to make personal sacrifice to prevent strategic sell of the debt-ridden 64-year-old ‘Maharaja”.

Alarmed by the news that the Cabinet note is already ready for Air India’s stake sell, 21,137 employees of Air India and its subsidiaries have offered to forgo a part of their salaries, perks, and other monetary benefits to save the country’s biggest air carrier.

Some of them have written directly to the office of CMD of Air India Ashwani Lohani saying it is time for them to make some sacrifice for the company which has given them so much in life.

“I wish to contribute a mere drop in the vast ocean of Rs50,000 crore debt by forgoing my transportation claims for the past two years that amounts to more than Rs2 lakh,” writes Anyanada Joshi, a senior crew member .

However, they are also ready to launch a major protest against the stake sale if their offer is not considered.

Joshi, who was one of the crew member of the historic International Women’s Day flight to San Francisco this March, has further stated that she always believed paying back her due to society she lives in. “Air india  has been my family, my society where I feel the sense of belonging. The airline has given me 14 years of memories and glory to cherish in,” Joshi added.

Some other employees have even dispatched hand-made crafts, paintings, artifacts, and name plates for the CMD. These have now been displayed in the corridors of the AI headquarters, Airlines House.

A senior AI official pointed out that unlike in the past when the employees turned belligerent in the face of even minor policy changes, this is perhaps for the first time that when talks of divestment are at advance stage the employees have remained calm and poise.

“The employees have put their best foot forward in difficult time. It’s touching,” said a senior AI official, adding, “In future, they may also go on strike, but that’s natural.”

Seven unions of Air India employees have written to Civil Aviation Minister Gajapathi Raju saying the employees are “agitated and apprehensive” about the issue and they  warned the Government of massive protests if a proposal to privatise the national carrier is approved. 

The unions have also sought an appointment with the Civil Aviation Minister  to discuss their concerns over Air India’s future.

Another employee of the group from Air India Express has written to the organisation requesting that he may be allowed to work for few months without any pay. 

“After all I am what I am only because of Air India. You (Lohani) have done and are still trying to do much for the organization, I would be happy to see you continue on your winning streak and that Air India emerging winner with you would be a moment to be cherished,” said the letter of Sudesh Singh of Air India Express.

Another one referred to Lohani as God to them said he alone can  be their savior. Lohani declined to say anything when The Pioneer sought his comments over such outpouring of emotions  from employees. 

“This is our internal matter of the organisation  and hence it would be inappropriate for me to make any comment . All my employees and AI family are  my strength,” Lohani said.  

The unions have written that they oppose the “arbitrary and unilateral” recommendations of the Government’s top policymaking body to privatise Air India. “We urge you (Centre) not to accept the hurried recommendations by the NITI AYOG and not to force the employees of Air India to agitate which will lead to industrial unrest and disharmony,” the letter said.

The unions have also questioned the justification to privatise the airline because it had a mere 14 per cent of the market share.



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