Indo-Asian News Service, New Delhi, February 3, 2006
In three days, 22,000 airport employees have managed to hold air travellers in the country almost to ransom and compounded the image of India as a "filthy country" which lacks basic tourist facilities that people take for granted elsewhere.
"India is a filthy country and the airport is as dirty as the city outside," said Willy, a French national married to an Indian. "This is my second visit and I have found dirt everywhere and it does not make any difference," he added.
Similar reactions came from a group of tourists coming from the Netherlands. "We were told that India is a dirty country but we had not expected the airport to be so dirty," said Anna. "I have never seen washrooms so dirty," added Daneilla.
"I am coming to India for the first time after converting to Sikhism. I was surprised to see the place so dirty but later found out that the airport staff was on strike," said Gurudas Khalsa, an American.
"The government should do something to clean up the place," she added.
As the strike entered its third day on Friday, airport employees went on the rampage early in the morning and threw filled garbage bins both inside and outside the arrival lounge of the domestic and international airport.
With paper glasses, plastic bottles and food thrown on the roads, there was little respite for the Indian travellers as well.
The stink of the washrooms was strong enough to narrate the story a few metres away from the doors.
"Look at the state of the amenities, they are stinking. You just cannot use them," said Manju Kedia, who came from Ahmedabad to meet her daughter who stays in Delhi. "There is no water and the place is in a mess," she added.
"It is good that the government has allowed private players to maintain the airport, the airport employees do not deserve to be here," she added.
"There is no water to drink and people have thrown food and used glasses all over the place," said Rajveer Singh, who works as a yoga teacher in Singapore.
"There is hardly any place where you do not find waste. People have thrown food under the seats because garbage bins are full and there is no place to dispose them," said Karam, a chartered accountant working in Malaysia.
Meanwhile, blatantly violating the Delhi High Court order, the agitating employees continued to shout slogans against the government and carry out protest march inside the airport premises.
"We do not want to disrupt the services but if the government is not thinking about us then why should we care," said Kamlawati, a clerk.
The airport employees are protesting against the award of contracts of Delhi and Mumbai airport to private players.
The agitators demand that the government should give the state-owned Airport Authority of India a chance to modernise the airport since they have both the money and technical knowhow.
"If the government does not want us to work here, we will stop work completely," said Ranvir Singh of airport employees union.