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Monday, 2 May 2011

Pilots back Hazare call AI corrupt

Nearly 150 pilots gather at Gateway of India to support Kiran Bedi-led anti-graft rally, say they want to expose corruption within Air India ranks

On day five of the Air India pilot strike, nearly 150 pilots from the Indian Commercial Pilots' Association gathered at the Gateway of India to join in an anti-corruption rally, conflating their strike with Anna Hazare's anti-corruption agenda. They merged with other youth that had gathered at the memorial to show solidarity with Hazare, and cited victimisation at the hands of "corrupt AI authorities".

Long live revolution: Youth gathered at the Gateway of India to show 
solidarity with the anti-corruption movement started by Anna Hazare. 
They carried placards and shouted slogans in favour of the Lokpal Bill

"We are victims of corruption. Through this rally, we want our voice to reach the people of this nation. We respect the movement begun by Anna Hazare. We will support all measures and initiatives against corruption. Our aim is to end and expose the corruption in Air India," said Rishabh Kapur, general secretary, ICPA.

Dressed in their black-and-white uniform, their mood revolutionary, the pilots took their strike and vocal criticism of the AI management to the roads. They assembled at the Jehangir Art Gallery (NGMA) first. As the sloganeering procession moved from the modern art gallery to the Gateway, anti-corruption slogans got louder.

Protesters were heard chanting 'End corruption', 'Anna Hazare zindabad' and 'Inquilab Zindabad'. The pilots waved placards and distributed literature related to the Lokpal Bill to visitors.  "It is our duty to make people aware of the corruption rampant in Air India and other government departments, and the power they have to curb it," said a pilot.  

Victimised? Air India pilots on strike comman cause with hazare
after saying that were vistimised by corruption too

The strike assumed a stark political dimension when the BJP jumped in the wrangle and blamed the central government for the mess the national carrier is in. Pointing out the piling losses, BJP spokesperson and former aviation minister Rajiv Pratap Rudy said, "The airline had on earlier occasions blamed global financial crisis, rise in fuel prices and increasing competition for its mounting losses. Now we hear that the present management is blaming pilots for its losses. The Prime Minister must tell the nation who is responsible for this."

Contempt notice
Today, union leaders of AI pilots are supposed to appear before the Delhi High Court to reply to a contempt notice against them. "We will abide by the law of the land. We want to meet the judges and present a clear picture to the bench," said Kapur. AI stand Yesterday, the AI management brought out a newspaper advertisement asking for the justification of strike by the pilots, while the pilots are drawing Rs 3.8-7 lakh salary per month. The management said that it had held 13 meetings, including those for conciliation, with the pilots since February 23, when the ICPA slapped the strike notice.  

At the forefront: Kiran Bedi leads the anti-graft rally at the Gateway.
A top official from the union ministry of civil aviation revealed on condition of anonymity that pilots might be asked to come in for negotiations today. "We may call the pilots for negotiations on Monday. A final decision is yet to be taken," he said.


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