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Indian Airport Workers Call Off Strike

Thousands of airport workers in India have called off their three-day strike after the government assured them that privatization of two of the country's largest airports would not result in job losses.

The decision to call off the strike came Saturday evening after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel stepped in to resolve the crisis.

Trade Union leader M.K. Padhe said they were ending the protest following assurances by the government that there would be no job losses at the Delhi and Bombay airports after they are privatized.

"In view of this letter and their assurance and the appeal made by the Honorbale Prime Minister I as the convener call off the strike," he said.

The strike began Wednesday after the government announced that it was handing over the Bombay and Delhi airports to two private consortiums involving overseas firms for modernization.

The workers, fearing job losses, held angry demonstrations outside major airports in the country demanding that the government should undertake the revamp on its own. They were backed by leftist parties which lend crucial support the government.

Despite the protests, the government refused to back down from its privatization plan. However Civil Aviation Minister Patel assured the striking workers that their jobs would not be jeopardized.

"The employees future also has been looked after absolute transparently and [there is a] 100 percent guarantee for all employment of the employees," said Patel.

Patel says airports in the country will begin functioning normally soon.

The strike did not result in major flight disruptions, as police and air force personnel were called in to keep the airports running. But they crippled many other services, and passengers had to cope with filthy airports as garbage piled up and toilets were not cleaned.

In the last two years, Indian airports have been struggling to cope with air traffic that is growing at nearly 20 percent a year. Most of the burden has been borne by the run down Delhi and Bombay airports, which handle more than 50 percent of the country's air traffic, and are in urgent need of renovation. The government says the privatization plan will give these two big cities world class airports.