New Delhi: Even as Air India pilots continued their hunger strike on Monday, Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh remained firm on his stand and said the strike must be withdrawn unconditionally.
"We want them to come back. All they have to do is to come back unconditionally to work. They never gave a notice. The high court has said it is illegal. I don't even know what the issues are. They don't know themselves. So, what can we do?" Singh told reporters as the agitation entered its 49th day on Monday.
Speaking on the losses Air India making due to the agitation, Singh said: "We are considering even shutting them (routes) if we can't improve."
Asked about the 48-hour hunger strike by the pilots, the minister said, "They have the right to go on hunger strike. It will be good for their health. It is for 48 hours anyways."
However, the striking pilots of the national carrier said there is a different of opinion between the government and the Air India management.
."On the one hand, the minister says come back to work. On the other hand they are talking about more terminations. There is a disconnect between what the minister says and what the management is doing," Tauseef Mukadam, Joint Secretary of Indian Pilots' Guild (IPG), which is spearheading the strike, told media.
Demanding re-instatement of their sacked colleagues, a group of eleven Air India pilots on Sunday began a 48-hour fast at Jantar Mantar here.
The pilots were holding banners that read: Hunger for Justice.
A total of 101 pilots belonging to the IPG were sacked by the management of Air India for taking part in the strike which was dubbed illegal.
The turbulence in the Air India came amid heavy financial losses to the national carrier.
Cash starved Air India lost Rs 1,492 crore in 2011-12 on international flights as it used large aircraft even amid a dip in ticket sales, a government committee set up to suggest ways of turning around the fortunes of the loss making routes has found.
The airline, that operates 42 international routes using widebody (twin aisle) aircraft, made three-fourth of the entire loss on just 13 routes, the top seven of which are said to be the flag carrier's most prestigious flights to North America and Europe.
The findings, part of a preliminary report by the government panel, are now being sent to the airline to see how it could minimise losses on the routes and its entire network either by changing flight timings, fares or aircraft, media reports said.