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EXCLUSIVE: There’s much unrest inside AAI over its latest recruitment drive. Do you know why?

The recruitment procedure followed by AAI to hire managers for air traffic control was relaxed to allow maximum candidates to qualify
New Delhi: Airports Authority Officers Association of India has waged a bitter battle against the state-run company for compromising heavily on the selection criteria for recruiting candidates to a post that could compromise the aviation safety of India. They have alleged that the recruitment procedure followed by Airports Authority of India (AAI) to hire managers for Communication, Navigation and Surveillance (CNS) was relaxed to allow maximum candidates to qualify and have said that they will resort to severe measures if the recruitment process is not withdrawn.

What is the problem?

AAI employees, who are part of the protest, have alleged that the management has lowered the bar so much so that out of the 1,700 candidates who appeared for the written exam, 1,320 have qualified the cut-off and have been asked to appear for an interview. “That’s unusual because it’s unheard of. It effectively means that 78 percent of the candidates who appeared for the written exam have qualified,” said Yogendra Gautam, an assistant general manager and the general secretary of the association who is observing a fast unto death since Thursday.

Why is that an issue?

CNS is an integral part of aviation safety. It refers to a system of infrastructure (technical equipment) that is used to monitor and control air traffic and make sure that there are no accidents. “The person selected for this post will be in charge of the air traffic management station. They will be in positions and units that are very, very critical, like the instrument landing system, VoRs and radars. Imagine a situation where there’s dense fog and an airplane has to land. If you expect a person who does not have any CNS experience to man an instrument landing system here, how dangerous will that be for the aircraft,” asked LN Prasad, joint secretary of the association.
One of the prime concerns voiced by the association is that people recruited through this exam will be dealing with a very crucial aspect of aviation safety as AAI provides CNS services across all stations in India. Secondly, they said, in terms of hierarchy, the person will be overseeing a bunch of junior officers who are much more qualified and knowledgeable
Surprisingly, the eligibility criteria for the vacancy announced by AAI at E3 level did not require candidates to have any prior experience in CNS (see picture below). Gautam said that candidates recruited by AAI at E1 level, which is two levels below E3, were GATE-qualified and were handpicked from premier institutes like the IITs. “Now, does it make sense to recruit people with lesser credentials at a position that’s senior to E1 level?” said Gautam. [caption id="attachment_5632" align="aligncenter" width="600"] A screenshot of the advertisement published in Employment News. Refer to Vacancy no 9.[/caption] One of the prime concerns voiced by the association is that people recruited through this exam will be dealing with a very crucial aspect of aviation safety as AAI provides CNS services across all stations in India. Secondly, they said, in terms of hierarchy, the person will be overseeing a bunch of junior officers who are much more qualified and knowledgeable.

How was the eligibility criteria relaxed?

Kaushal Kishore, another AAI employee, said that when the advertisement was put out by the PSU, employees had made their case before the management. “We had also mooted the proposal of recruiting junior executives instead of managers and then training them for the job. The management had reacted positively at the suggestion but then, they went ahead with the recruitment process,” said Kishore. Employees had also suggested including questions in the written exam that were based on CNS. “This demand was accepted and 20 percent of the question paper had questions related to CNS. But the questions were such that a Class X student could answer them easily… questions like what is the full form of RADAR and UPS,” said Kishore. He added that the cut off mark was also relaxed to 51 out of 120.

Fast unto death

Gautam said that when efforts to get the management to reconsider the recruitment procedure stonewalled, he wrote a letter to Minister of Civil Aviation Suresh Prabhu, declaring his decision to fast unto death if the recruitment drive is not aborted immediately. A copy of this letter accessed by PSU Watch showed that Gautam had flagged the induction of candidates through the above-mentioned procedure. [caption id="attachment_5631" align="aligncenter" width="1183"] A copy of the letter sent by Yogendra Gautam to Civil Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu accessed by PSU Watch.[/caption]   Because of the agitation and the consistent opposition put up by the association, the management has not been able to go ahead with the selection procedure as of now.  An email sent to the AAI management seeking comment on the matter was not answered. This story will be updated whenever a response is received.