Thousands of airport workers protest in India

Waving red flags, thousands of striking airport workers held protests Thursday across India, disrupting air travel and forcing airlines to cancel flights.

Nearly 20,000 employees went on a 12-hour strike to protest the government's decision to let private companies operate the country's two largest airports in New Delhi and Bombay.

Private domestic airlines canceled dozens of flights despite an assurance by Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel that the government would maintain normal air services.

"Strike is our only remaining weapon to stop this unnecessary privatization of our airports," said Nitin Jadhav, a leader of the state-run Airport Authority of India Employees Joint Forum, which organized the action.

Carrying red flags, airport workers held protest demonstrations outside New Delhi's Indira Gandhi International Airport.

India plans to let private companies run the two airports on 30-year leases and government stakes in the airports would be capped at 26 percent.

A government official said two state-run airlines, Air-India and Indian Airlines, would operate all their flights on Thursday.

The worst-hit was the eastern city of Calcutta.

No flights operated from Calcutta's Netaji Subhash Chandra Airport on Thursday morning, according to Press Trust of India.

Only two flights took off from New Delhi's two airports out of the 50 scheduled during the first hour of the strike, the AP reports.

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