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Cabin pressure

Court rightly refuses to be drawn into govt-pilots standoff. Govt must solve the problem it created

Written by The Indian Express | Published: May 14, 2012 3:49:28 am

Court rightly refuses to be drawn into govt-pilots standoff. Govt must solve the problem it created

It is as if irresponsibility has become endemic in Air India. First,a pilots’ union,the now de-recognised Indian Pilots Guild,strikes work yet again,this time in the middle of a lucrative holiday season,inconveniencing passengers for almost a week and plunging the cash-strapped carrier into a greater financial crisis. Then,the state-run airline rushes to the Supreme Court for help,pleading that the protesting pilots are,in fact,in contempt of the court as their strike violated its previous order on the training schedule for the Boeing Dreamliners — that an equal number of pilots from pre-merger AI and the Indian Airlines be given training. The court has,rightly,refused to entertain the petition,which was little more than the government trying to wash its hands of the problem and passing it on to the judiciary.

It is incredible that the government — which has of late complained of the judiciary interfering in its domain — should have sought to drag the courts into a mess of its own making. This also brings into greater relief the government’s inability to square up to problems besetting “the national carrier” — to which much misplaced pride has been attached and massive funds poured in. For a carrier with outstanding loans and dues worth Rs 67,520 crore,a bailout of Rs 30,000 crore over nine years was granted last month. Then a suddenly tough-talking civil aviation minister,Ajit Singh,pointed out that it comes with caveats — the airline must maintain on-time performance of up to 90 per cent,passenger load of about 73 per cent and improve yields. Nobody seems to have paid attention to the fact that in the on-going strike,AI is losing over Rs 10 crore a day due to cancellation of flights.

The government must pay heed to what the SC bench has said: “You. sort out the differences.” The minister has said the government is ready for discussion with the pilots. But he should also recognise that short-term,piecemeal measures cannot undo the damage. It needs an overhaul that has been long overdue.

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