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A hectic Saturday for Civil Aviation Ministry

Our Bureau

New Delhi , Feb. 4

DESPITE indications on Friday night that the agitation by the employees of the Airport Authority of India (AAI) would be called off, there were some anxious moments on Saturday morning whether the agitation would actually be. What had aggravated the situation was a lathi-charge by the Delhi police on the agitating workers in the wee hours of the day, since the authorities decided to implement the High Court order that no dharna could be held within 500 metres of the airport.

Therefore, despite being a Government holiday, there was hectic activity on Saturday at the Ministry of Civil Aviation here as the nitty-gritty for calling off the agitation was being firmed up.

Things started moving shortly after 1 p.m. when a grey coloured Ambassador car carrying Member of Parliament Mr Gurudas Das Gupta, the President of the CITU, Mr M.K. Pandhe, and the Convenor of the AAI Joint Workers Forum, Mr M.K. Ghoshal, arrived. A few minutes later, the Minister for Civil Aviation, Mr Praful Patel, came in and the three trade union leaders were ushered into the Minister's office. They were joined subsequently by the Secretary, Civil Aviation, Mr Ajay Prasad.

The confabulations went on for more than 90 minutes during which there was a continuous stream of officials coming in and out of the room carrying documents. Eventually at 2.45 p.m. a senior Ministry official came out to fax a one-page letter. The Left party delegation then came out to announce that "The Government has accepted all our demands. A decision on the next course of action will be taken soon."

The three member delegation again got into their car and started speeding towards the exit gate only to be stopped mid-way as Mr Patel's convoy had been stopped by television cameras stationed outside the Ministry.

The break in journey was small. The Ambassador soon began the drive to Delhi airport and once there and among their own, the three-member delegation and other Left party leaders got into the trade union act.

"It is a victory for you. It is the Government that has had to bend. The fight against privatisation will continue," Mr Dasgupta thundered.

In similar vein, Mr Dipankar Mukherjee, Member of Parliament, felt that the letter from Mr Patel showed that the Government now recognised the Forum. "The strike is not over. Now we will strike by words and action much like a football player," Mr Mukherjee said, hinting that the matter would be raised in Parliament.

Eventually at 4 p.m. on the fourth day of the agitation, Mr Ghoshal announced that the strike was being withdrawn and called on all to go back to work.

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