Top government sources on Thursday accused the BJP of instigating the pilots’ agitation and the striking domestic pilots of “shifting their goalposts constantly” by raising fresh demands for higher flying allowances. The sources indicated the pilots’ stubborn attitude could push the government soon into taking “drastic” action such as mass dismissals of pilots. This came on a day when the strike entered the ninth day and talks between the pilots and the government remained inconclusive. The talks will continue Friday, which will be the 10th day of the strike.
Striking pilots met BJP leader Rajiv Pratap Rudy and party president Nitin Gadkari on Friday. Mr Rudy is himself a pilot and flies for a low-cost carrier. “The fact that the pilots met the BJP leadership shows the BJP is fishing in troubled waters. This itself raises suspicion,” the government sources said, adding that the striking pilots were raising fresh demands by the hour such as a drastic rise in international flying allowances from $300 to $1,600 on par with Air India’s international route pilots. The striking pilots claimed, however, that this was a long-stated demand and there was nothing new in it.
What is more worrying, the sources said, was that the government had received a communication from some of the airline’s international route pilots who said their “pending demands” should also be considered if the government gives in to the domestic pilots. The government fears this might open a “pandora’s box” for the cash-strapped airline, which is already reeling under a severe financial crisis.
When contacted by this newspaper, BJP leader Rajiv Pratap Rudy said: “It is true the pilots met me and Mr Gadkari. The BJP is supporting the pilots’ demands.” When asked about allegation that the BJP was instigating the pilots, Mr Rudy said: “The government cannot cover up its own failures. Mr Gadkari appealed to the striking pilots to resume work.”
The pilots and senior civil aviation ministry officials held prolonged talks at the ministry on Thursday. But sources among the pilots told this newspaper the talks had been “inconclusive”. For the record, however, the pilots said the talks had been positive and added they hoped that a solution would be found in a day or two. Asian Age