Is getting pregnant a sin for the women pilots of Air India?
It seems so, as per a letter by T.Praveen Keerthi, General Secretary, Indian Commercial Pilots' Association (ICPA) to the airlines Chairman and Managing Director Rajiv Bansal. According to Keerthi, some long serving women pilots had availed duly approved and sanctioned maternity leave.
The said pilots were eligible to be given service benefits. "However, to their utter shock and complete dismay, the said pilots are appalled to find out that their names either do not find a place at all or have been incorrectly mentioned in the Upgradation List, thereby amounting to a denial of due service benefits to them and adversely affecting their seniority," the letter notes.
"While no explanation, written or otherwise, has been shared officially by the AI management in this regard, it appears that there is no other reason, apart from the fact that each said pilot was on a duly sanctioned and approved leave, and it is on that account that they have been denied their rightful place in the Upgradation List," Keerthi said.
Seek protection of rights
According to him, the issue of protection to be given to expecting female professionals (including inspectors, cabin crew, etc.) vis-a-vis their service benefits, including pay parity, promotions, and seniority, finds a place in various international treaties and conventions, including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW - Articles 1-5, 10-12, 13(1), 16(e)), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR -Articles 2(2), 3, 6-10(2), 12).
"Several courts of the land, including the High Court of Delhi as well as the Supreme Court, from time to time, have also examined this issue and held that any form of pregnancy-related discrimination against such expecting female professionals, in this case, Pilots, is violative of their fundamental rights under Articles 14, 15, 16, 19 and 21 of the Constitution and is thus, entirely impermissible in law," he added.
Pointing out that women account for 12 per cent of cockpit crew strength in India, it said it is unfortunate that service benefits, as well as promotional and seniority-related avenues, are being denied by the AI management to its female pilot workforce, on account them availing leave related to maternity.
"This, as per the ICPA, is nothing short of a punitive measure being imposed on the said female pilots solely because they have dared to make a conscious choice to be mothers as well as being Pilots of Air India Ltd," Keerthi said.