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Across India Passengers Fume As Pilots’ Strike Grounds 53 AI Flights

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Across India Passengers Fume As Pilots' Strike Grounds 53 AI FlightsPassengers across India continued to suffer as 53 Air India flights were cancelled on Thursday with the strike by around 600 pilots, earlier serving the Indian Airlines, entering the second day in defiance of a stay ordered by the Delhi high court. As per information available at airports across the country, 53 flights, mainly out of the national capital and Mumbai, were grounded on Thursday; some 50 flights were either cancelled or re-scheduled the day earlier.

Thursday also saw the cancellation of some international flights, including those from the capital to Kathmandu, Kabul and Dubai.

Chaotic scenes were witnessed, particularly at the terminals in Delhi and Mumbai, as passengers frantically sought alternatives. “I can understand the management’s dilemma. But why should I be informed just the last moment that my flight is cancelled. I could have made some alternative arrangements,”  Sandeep Goyal, a Delhi passenger bound for Mumbai, said adding, “Now the private carriers are taking advantage of the situation. A ticket that should cost around Rs 6,600 at the last moment, is now being sold for Rs 8,800. I had booked days in advance. Even with full refund, my loss is much more.”

Members of the Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA), once on the rolls of the erstwhile Indian Airlines, struck work midnight on Tuesday, demanding parity in pay with their counterparts in Air India and other issues related to work conditions. They also demanded that the airline reinstate the six pilots who were sacked and two others who were suspended on Wednesday, and want the union to be recognised again and its offices de-sealed.

Appeals by civil aviation minister Vayalar Ravi and Air India chairman and managing director Arvind Jadhav, asking pilots to end the strike and come to the negotiating table, were in vain. “We have decided to rope in 150 management pilots to keep the operations as smooth as possible,” a spokesperson for Air India said, referring to the senior executive pilots who are now also tasked with administrative duties. But the striking staff members said some of these pilots had reported sick on Thursday.

The civil aviation ministry has decided to fully back the Air India management and the minister said a section of the pilots, whatever be their grievances, cannot hold the carrier to ransom, especially when it is going through difficult times. Ravi said the pilots should work with the expert committee constituted under a retired Supreme Court judge, Justice CS Dharamadhikari, to examine employee issues such as pay parity between the staff of the two airlines. This panel had started its work on Monday.

Chairman Jadhav even wrote a strong letter to the 35,000 employees of the carrier and said the striking pilots were behaving irresponsibly and were unconcerned about inconvenience caused to passengers, especially in these testing times. “Why are some pilots being impatient, being irresponsible, being unreasonable and being adamant on tarnishing the image of the company and being totally unconcerned towards the convenience of our esteemed patrons and passengers?” But the pilots said they had been left with no option but to resort to the strike. “It is the management that has forced us. We are the third union to get derecognised,” said the association’s general secretary Capt Rishab Kapoor.

Wednesday also saw the Delhi high court slamming the Air India management for turning a blind eye to the demands of pilots for some two decades.

“For the past 21 years, you are unable to sort out the problems. That means something is lacking on your part. Because of this even the families and children of these pilots are suffering,” justice Gita Mittal told the counsel for Air India. “The pilots are hereby restrained from continuing with their strike or resorting to any demonstration, as the larger public interest is involved,” the judge said. The order was delivered after Air India’s counsel took up the matter before the single-member bench. Justice Mittal said the case will come up for hearing again May 16. But the pilots said they will continue with their agitation, and would consider moving the Supreme Court to seek redressal.

-HT

 

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SOUTH ASIA

Pakistani Anti-graft body wants travel ban on Nawaz Sharif, kin

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Pakistan’s anti-corruption watchdog has asked authorities to place ousted premier Nawaz Sharif, his daughter and son-in-law on the Exit Control List to prevent them from leaving the country.

The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) sent a formal request to the ministry of interior. The interior ministry officials confirmed that the NAB wrote that names of Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law Capt (retd) Muhammad Safdar should be put on the Exit Control List (ECL), which listed individuals not allowed to leave Pakistan.

The NAB argued that as the trial of the three nears its conclusion, it is feared that they would leave the country.

Earlier, a similar request to place name of finance minister Ishaq Dar on ECL was not accepted, allowing him to go to London and never return.

Sharif, 68, and his family this week filed an application with the accountability court seeking a fortnight’s exemption from personal appearance from February 19 onwards to let them go to London to see Sharif’s ailing wife. Three cases were filed against Sharif and his family last year, including Avenfield properties, Azizia & Hill Metal Establishment, and Flagship Investments.

Maryam and Safdar are accused only in Avenfield properties case. The NAB had filed two supplementary references against Sharif, his sons Hasan and Hussain regarding Al-Azizia Steel Mills & Hill Metal Establishment and Flagship Investment cases.

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Pakistan “breaches obligations’ on nuclear arms reduction, UN court told

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The Hague: Pakistan is violating its “obligations” to the international community by failing to reduce its nuclear arsenal, the Marshall Islands told the UN’s highest court on Tuesday.

The small Pacific Island nation is this week launching three unusual cases against India, Pakistan and Britain before the International Court of Justice.

Majuro wants to put a new spotlight on the global nuclear threat, its lawyers said yesterday, by using its own experience with massive US-led nuclear tests in the 1940s and 1950s.

“Pakistan is in breach of its obligations owed to the international community as a whole,” when it comes to reducing its nuclear stockpile, said Nicholas Grief, one of the island nation’s lawyers.

Islamabad and its nuclear-armed neighbour India “continue to engage in a quantitative build-up and a qualitative improvement” of their atomic stockpiles, added Tony deBrum, a Marshallese government minister.

DeBrum warned that even a “limited nuclear war” involving the two countries would “threaten the existence” of his island nation people.

Pakistan and India have fought three wars since independence from Britain in 1947, two of them over the disputed Himalayan territory of Kashmir.

In 1998, the rival neighbours both demonstrated nuclear weapons capability.

The ICJ’s judges are holding hearings for the next week and a half to decide whether it is competent to hear the lawsuits brought against India and Pakistan — neither of which have signed the 1968 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

A third hearing against Britain — which has signed the NPT — scheduled to start on Wednesday will be devoted to “preliminary objections” raised by London.

The Marshalls initially sought to bring a case against nine countries it said possessed nuclear arms: Britain, China, France, India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia and the United States.
Israel has never admitted to having nuclear weapons.

But the Hague-based ICJ, set up in 1945 to rule in disputes between states, has only admitted three cases against Britain, India and Pakistan, because they have accepted the ICJ’s compulsory jurisdiction.

Pakistan’s lawyers did not attend Tuesday’s hearings.

It did however file a counter-claim against Majuro’s allegations saying “the court has no jurisdiction to deal with the application” and insisting that the case is “not admissible”, said ICJ President Ronny Abraham.

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Bangladesh to drop Islam as official religion following attacks on Hindus

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Bangladesh to drop Islam as official religion following attacks on Hindus

New Delhi: Bangladesh is likely to drop Islam as its official religion following a series of attacks on people from other faiths in the country. The country’s Supreme Court is hearing a plea challenging the status of the official religion of the country to Islam.

Bangladesh, which was declared a secular country after its formation in 1971, was declared an Islamic country following a constitutional amendment in 1988.

According to a report in the Daily Mail, the plea has challenged the declaration of Islam as the national religion of the country.

The move is being supported by leaders from the minority communities like Hindus, Christians and Muslim minority Shiites.

Bangladesh has 90 per cent of Muslims, 8 per cent Hindus and remaining constitutes Christians and Muslim minority Shiites.

In last month, a Hindu priest was hacked to death following an attack on a temple in Panchgarh district. Two others were seriously injured in the attack. There have been several lethal attacks on writers and bloggers.

According to a report in the Independent, Islamist groups Jumatul Mujahedeen Bangladesh and Ansarullah Bangla Team are believed to have carried out at least seven attacks on foreign and minority people in Bangladesh in the past year.

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