Taking exception to the "illegal and irresponsible" action by the employees, civil aviation minister Praful Patel has stepped in and backed the management and said the airline is free to take firm measures to restore normalcy in its operations
The government today gave a free hand to Air India (AI) to crack down on a section of its employees on strike calling their action irresponsible, as the state-owned airline cancelled another 76 flights across the country, reports PTI.
Thousands of passengers were left stranded on the second day of the strike by the cash-strapped airline\'s engineers and ground staff, who account for about 60% of the entire staff strength.
Representatives of striking employees and top officials also held one round of talks in New Delhi in a bid to end the standoff but the deadlock continued.
The unions are protesting against a \'gag order\' on members for talking to the media after Saturday\'s air crash in Mangalore and \'delay\' in payment of salaries. The management however clarified there is only one general circular and that there was no \'gag order".
In all 110 flights, mostly domestic, have been cancelled since the flash strike began yesterday at a time when it is peak summer rush. On 16th May, Air India flew a record number of 50,308 passengers on its network.
Taking exception to the "illegal and irresponsible" action by Air India employees, civil aviation minister Praful Patel stepped in and backed the management and said the airline is free to take firm measures to restore normalcy in its operations.
"Air India management is free to take all appropriate action and I am sure they are going to adequately respond. The management needs to act adequately and firmly", Patel told reporters after a meeting with civil aviation secretary M Madhavan Nambiar and airline CMD Arvind Jadhav.
Issuing a stern warning to the striking employees, he said "such absolutely irresponsible behaviour like this needs strong action... Strong, appropriate and decisive action should be taken. ...No one can take law into their own hands".
Patel, who apprised prime minister Manmohan Singh on the situation, later briefed the Union Cabinet.
Asked whether government is going to invoke the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) against the striking employees, he said the future course of action is left to the airline management.
"The government will go by the advice of the management", Patel said amid reports that finance minister Pranab Mukherjee had spoken to him on the need for some tough action against erring employees. Jadhav last night said termination of services of employees was not ruled out.
The Air Corporation Employees Unions and All India Aircraft Engineers Association, which are leading the strike, together claim a membership of about 20,000 employees or about 60% of the staff strength.
A desperate Air India also approached the vacation bench of the Bombay High Court for directions to the employees to call off the stir but declined to interfere in the absence of the other party. The court asked the airline to give notice to the employees\' union and adjourned the hearing till 28th May.
Chaotic scenes were witnessed at Air India counters at several airports as passengers voiced their anger at the disruption of flights.
Air India in a statement clarified that its office circular which prevents union leaders from publicly airing their views about the airline\'s affairs was not a \'gag order\' and that a similar order had been upheld earlier by the Bombay High Court.
Of the total corpus, the company has already mopped up Rs400 crore from six to seven investors at its first close
In a bid to support its business operations, the country's first asset reconstruction firm Asset Reconstruction Company of India (Arcil) is in the process of raising around Rs2,000 crore through a fund from domestic and foreign investors, reports PTI.
Of the total corpus, the company has already mopped up Rs400 crore from six to seven investors at its first close, Arcil managing director and CEO S Khasnobis told reporters today.
"This is a multi-close fund and a host of investors are involved. At the first close, we raised Rs400 crore," Khasnobis said on the sidelines of a seminar in Chennai.
Arcil, which had also raised Rs300 crore through another fund recently, would use the capital to enhance its business operations, Khasnobis said.
In the last financial year, Arcil had bought bad assets from banks and other financial institutions for around Rs600-700 crore through cash and security receipts, he said.
Khasnobis observed that the non-performing assets of banks are unlikely to rise steeply this year owing to improving economic conditions, but there could be issues with sectors like real estate and export-related segments.
Arcil's sponsors include State Bank of India and IDBI Bank (holding over 19% each), ICICI Bank (13.26%) and Punjab National Bank (10.01%).
At present, there are 13 asset reconstruction companies (ARCs) operating in the country. Banks and other financial institutions, which have lending operations, sell a part of their bad loans at a discounted rate to ARCs with the intention of cleaning up their balance sheets.
Arcil's retail debt recovery division, Arms, currently has a portfolio of around Rs2,000 crore, of which Rs400 crore has been recovered by the company, Khasnobis said.
The retail arm, which was launched last year, operates through 16 offices across the country.
Another leading ARC, the International Asset Reconstruction Company, bought bad assets worth Rs500 crore in FY'10 from five to six banks, the company's managing director and CEO, Birendra Kumar, said.
Two-way trade between the UAE and India climbed to a record high of about 118 billion dirhams last year, nearly 15% of the UAE's commercial activity
India became the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) largest trading partner in 2009, ousting China from the top position and accounting for nearly 15% of the country’s total commercial exchanges, reports PTI.
"India was the top trading partner of the UAE last year after overtaking China for the first time, accounting for nearly 15% of the country's total commercial exchange," an Emirates Industrial Bank (EIB) study has said.
The UAE's non-oil trade hit a new peak of more than 692 billion dirhams, indicating there was growth in the country's non-hydrocarbon sectors, the study said.
The report showed that two-way trade between the UAE and India climbed to a record high of about 118 billion dirhams, nearly 15% of the UAE's commercial activity.
It was followed by China, the US, Germany and Japan, the report said.
Indian figures also showed the UAE was the second-largest exporter to the sub-continent last year, with shipments totalling about $17 billion (62.44 billion dirhams).
Figures released by the Indian Department of Commerce showed that the surge in the UAE's exports to India turned it into the second largest exporter to the country after Saudi Arabia.
The increase in the UAE's imports from India also boosted the UAE's share of imports from India to a record 10.8% of the South Asian country's total exports of nearly $153 billion.
"There has been a noticeable shift in the trade of the UAE and other members of the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) with the West, as the balance is gradually tilting towards Asia," the report said.
"This shift is extremely imports for the Gulf's future economy, including the monetary and fiscal policy, as well as the exchange rates and the Gulf single currency," it added.
"As for 2010, the UAE's trade is expected to maintain its growth, particularly after most of the effects of the global crisis have been tackled. This will have a positive impact on the overall economy this year," the report said.
The EIB study showed the UAE's non-oil trade swelled by about 10.6% to a new peak of nearly 692.9 billion dirhams in 2009 from about 626.1 billion dirhams in 2008.