Air India employees union seeks probe into long ‘picnic’ in Kozhikode

The latest controversy to hit Air India is about a “picnic” that senior officials from the Chennai station are having in a Kozhikode five star hotel even after the rescue operations are over, as per the employees union, which also claims they are from the finance wing whose head V. Hejmadi “is only busy seeking an extension for himself”.

The Air India Employees Union, affiliated to the Bharatiya Kamgar Sena, has written a letter to Air India Chairman and Managing Director Rajiv Bansal on the issue, demanding a probe.

“A team from Chennai headed by the ED-SR, C. Hemalatha along with GM, Finance, SR, S. Ravikumar and others arrived at Kozhikode on Saturday, August 8 when all the rescue operations were completed. Since then, the entire team of Chennai had been staying in a five star hotel at Kozhikode. While some officials, after a week of relaxation, returned back to Chennai on Friday, August 14, Madam Hemalatha still continues to stay at Kozhikode and enjoy her relaxed holidays,” it said.

“What was the purpose of a team from Air India Chennai to go to Kozhikode and enjoy a stay in a five star hotel for about 10 days? Was this Chennai team on a picnic? Most importantly, when the incident is of an independent subsidiary, Air India Express, whose CEO, Shyam Sundar was already present at Kozhikode along with his officers, was the presence of Air India’s ED-SR required there for so many days?” the union asked.

It noted that Air India Express, being an independent subsidiary, is not accountable to the executive Director, Southern Region, of Air India. “The claims with regard to the incident of Air India Express aircraft, we understand, has to be dealt with by the finance team of Air India Express, which has its own CFO,” the union said in the letter.

The Union said that they were all are aware that Kozhikode is an online functional station with a complete set of staff from all the respective departments to take care of the required formalities.

“Therefore, in this Covid situation, it was not at all desirable for this team from Chennai to remain in Kozhikode for such a long period and now the joke is that after enjoying a picnic of 10 days, some who have returned back to Chennai are now in quarantine for 14 days in their residence at Chennai. Madam Hemalatha continues to enjoy her stay at 5 star hotel at Air India’s expense,” the union said.

“Who is accountable and responsible for unwarranted expenditures arising out of such acts of omission and commission by the senior executives such as Hemlata and Ravikumar, both being from Finance Department and under the control of Director, Finance, Air India, V. Hejmadi. Most importantly, when the company is going through financial turbulence as well as a disinvestment process, what leadership and direction has been shown by Hejmadi to his subordinates,” the union said.

It alleged that Hejmadi, whose term is coming to an end in October, “is desperately trying for an extension, and only shuttling between Delhi and Mumbai and violating all state regulations of Maharashtra and Delhi for Covid”.

“Hejmadi has ensured that a large number of his Finance team remain at Mumbai, so that he can keep on travelling Delh-Mumbai to ensure that he enjoys with his family who are well settled in Mumbai,” the union has alleged.

It contended that the “major reason for the downfall of Air India is that nobody is questioning the losses that are being accumulated month after month and year after year and no concrete plan has been worked out by Hejmadi to either bring down the losses or repayment of loans taken by Air India for its survival, but on the contrary, our members are subjected to salary cuts”.

“We fear that if Hejmadi gets extension, such inaction by the Finance along with the HR Departments will move Air India forward towards its early closure. It will be only our members who will be jobless along with many other employees who are solely dependent on Air India for their daily bread and butter. We, therefore, demand to have the picnic trip looked into and stern action be taken against all who are responsible for causing unnecessary expenditure to the company, including V. Hejmadi whose focus is only on getting extension for himself,” the union said.