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    Posted on 10 January 2012
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    Air India cripples disabled employee

    Cash-strapped employee writes letter to officers’ association, wants to auction his National Award

    Samiran Saha
    New Delhi

    The financially crippled national carrier is in no position to pay salaries to its nearly 23,000 employees on time


    “There is a bright light at the end of every tunnel. But this tunnel is too long.… I wish to auction my National Award—Gold Medal’ to anyone who values its worth.”

    This is by far the most moving appeal by a National Award and gold medal-winning physically challenged Air India employee driven to desperation as the financially crippled national carrier is in no position to pay salaries to its nearly 23,000 employees on time.

    The employee—name withheld on request—was awarded the national award and a gold medal by the-then President APJ Abdul Kalam for meritorious services rendered to the organisation. But delayed salary and lack of funds even to run his household have forced him to put up his gold medal for auction with the hope that it would fetch him some money to meet his immediate needs.

    So dismal is the financial health of the national carrier that salaries are delayed by three months with employees having been paid for November this month. Besides, performance-linked incentive, which forms a huge part of an employee’s salary, has not been paid for the past four months meaning that the employees are receiving just about half their salaries.

    The national award-winning employee has in a very heart-rending letter (a copy of which is with TEHELKA) written to Air India Officers’ Association—which will then officially pass it on to the management as per the protocol—explains why he has resorted to auctioning the medal that he so cherishes.

    “My superiors awarded Merit Award and Special Award for being a good employee and I also received a ‘National Award’ from former Hon’ble President Dr APJ Abdul Kalam as ‘Best Employee of the Nation’ in the category of physically challenged persons. Air India CMD appreciated my achievements in the Magic Carpet.”

    The employee further says, “Things changed for bad. I am a very small person to understand the cause and duration of the stay of black cloud wavering (sic) on Air India. We were informed by our management that we were making huge losses year after year and salary won’t be a priority payment any more.”

    The employee, like many others in Air India, was forced to sell off his car and wife’s jewellery. “I sold my car as I could neither afford fuel nor maintenance. Along with my disabled wife, I started moving all around on foot or badly crowded public transport leaving my fate to GOD. I need to pay Rs 1 lakh towards my daughters’ fees in the month of March 2012…. All my RDs and FDs are long liquidated. My wife remains disturbed these days and daughter explodes (sic) aggression.”

    “We were going from financially bad to worst. I could not pay my EMI towards the housing loan and started receiving warning notes from banks which were not too pleasant to read. I had to sell my wife’s ornaments and household belongings to sustain a living. The grain shops around us have stopped giving grains on credit. My wife has regular medical expenses which are not covered by Air India. I have been signalled by doctors to be ready for a major medical expenditure in the near future at a stage when I have been left with nothing in my bank accounts,” the letter reads.

    Due to lack of regular salary slips, AI employees cannot even raise personal loans.

    When contacted, an Air India finance department official who is not authorised to speak to the press said that “arrangements are being made to clear a part of the employees’ dues in the next 24 hours”.

    Government rules mandate that if a public sector enterprise (PSE) fails to pay its employees continuously for three months, the PSE is supposed to be declared sick.

    Samiran Saha is Assistant Editor, Business with Tehelka.
    samiran@tehelka.com


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    Posted on 10 January 2012
 
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