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In a bid to end the stalemate, Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh today met striking Air India pilots for the first time and told them that there would be no victimisation if they resumed duty immediately and that their grievances would be considered.
For the first time in 18 days since the strike began, five pilots of the Indian Pilots' Guild (IPG), spearheading the stir, called on Singh at the Ministry's headquarters here and held a 90-minute-long meeting with him. Air India CMD Rohit Nandan was asked to join the meeting at the fag end.
"We reiterated the stand of the government that it is an illegal strike. It has caused untold miseries to passengers. Air India has lost much and therefore they should come back to work immediately," Singh told reporters after the meeting.
Asked whether the pilots were willing to return to work, he said, "That you have to ask them." Singh said that he had stated in Parliament that "we won't be vindictive. We understand their problems also. Lot of young people are there ..... They are also worried, we also realise that we want them back. But it is for them to decide." He said that the pilots began their agitation without serving a notice and "reported sick when they were not".
The Minister is understood to have told the pilots that the ailing airline had suffered a great deal not only in terms of financial losses but also on its image and the people's confidence in it.
Sources said Singh indicated that the process to revoke sack orders of pilots would begin as and when they resume duty. A total of 101 pilots owing allegiance to IPG have so far been sacked by the airline management.
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