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Agitating AI pilots go on hunger strike

New Delhi: Intensifying their 48-day-old protest, agitating Air India pilots today went on an indefinite hunger strike demanding reinstatement of 101 sacked pilots and restoration of recognition to Indian Pilots Guild as a trade union.

A group of 11 pilots, who are at loggerheads with AI management over the move to train pilots from the erstwhile Indian Airlines in the merged entity on Boeing-787 Dreamliner, began their hunger strike at Jantar Mantar this morning. "Keeping aside all other issues, we are just demanding that the government should reinstate the 101 sacked pilots and restore recognition of IPG," Captain Aditya Singh Dhillon, who is leading the strike, told PTI.

On whether the hunger strike will provide a solution to the 48-day-long agitation, Dhillon said, "I don`t know, but we are left with no other option." He said their demands also included restoration of recongition to Indian Pilots Guild as a trade union. The strike, which has led Air India to curtail its international long-haul flight schedule, has been declared illegal by the government and the Delhi High Court. The ailing national carrier has been operating 38 out of 45 services for over a month now.

AI has already advertised for hiring new pilots for long-haul operations. Dhillon alleged that the Civil Aviation Ministry never approached the IPG and dealt with the demands of the pilots concerned. He also said that the Ministry was trying to impose on the striking pilots the Dharmadhikari panel report which, he alleged, was completely biased. The Dharmadhikari report deals with pay parity between Air India and Indian Airlines.

The Air India management has sacked pilots belonging to IPG, which struck work on May 7 against the management`s move to train pilots from the erstwhile Indian Airlines on Dreamliner plane.

"Our hunger strike is an attempt to force the management to come and negotiate," Tauseef Mukadam, Joint Secretary of IPG, said. An IPG leader said, "A myth has been spread that we are highest-paid employees. We will try to correct that by showing to the people our salary slips that we are not being paid astronomical amounts as is being spread."

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