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'Light up our Diwali, Mr PM!'

In a letter, the Indian Commercial Pilots Association requests PM Manmohan Singh to intervene and help release their salaries, which are pending since the month of July 

With the Maharaja having turned pauper, his loyal attendants are desperately seeking ways to stave off penury. For the past four months, employees of the ailing national carrier have failed to receive their salaries and allowances. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and so the largest pilot union of Air India has written a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, referring to him as their last resort and pleading with him to turn their fortunes around and make this Diwali a happy one for the beleaguered Air India family.

The note of desperation is palpable in the letter dispatched by the Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA) to the Prime Minister on Monday. It says, 'With two days to Diwali, there still continues to be darkness in the lives of the Air India employees, with 80 per cent of our salaries due, for almost four months. While we continue to strive with smiles on our faces and offer exemplary hospitality to our esteemed passengers, the fact is that the employees and their families are suffering while the whole country celebrates Diwali.'

The letter  goes on to refer to Singh as the only ray of hope for the pilots, requesting him to intervene in the matter.

Former Air India Managing Director, Captain D S Mathur said, "I think they wrote a letter to the PM with the hope that their salaries will be delivered soon. The last time they wrote to Singh, he responded with a statement, after which the salaries were credited to the accounts of the employees."

On August 3, Singh had addressed the issue of pending salaries.

"That Air India is in serious difficulties is an open secret. It doesn't have resources to pay salaries. But the government will find the ways and means to pay the wages of Air India employees soon," Singh had said.
Following this statement, the outstanding salaries till the month of June were credited to employees' accounts.

The Other side
An Air India spokesperson said, "We are trying to clear the dues at the earliest. This will depend on the availability of funds."

Sinking fortunes
The national carrier has over 42,000 people on its rolls, with about 4,400 cabin crewmembers and 2,000 pilots for its fleet of over 100 aircraft. While the total losses incurred by Air India have crossed the Rs 40,000 crore mark, the cumulative loss since its merger with Indian Airlines in 2007 has been over Rs 13,300 crore. Recently, the Indian government unveiled plans for a Rs 740-crore bailout package for Air India, over and above the Rs 123 crore the government promised to give the carrier earlier this year.


Dark-Diwali: In their letter, the AI employees claim that the
non-payment of salaries has plunged their lives in darkness, even as the
rest of the country celebrates the festival of lights

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