If encroachers are blocking the expansion of the city airport, squatters from within are impeding the efficiency of the Airport Authority of India.
Faced with the challenge of providing accommodation to air navigation system (ANS) department staffers, who should be put up near the airport because of the stressful nature of their jobs, the AAI has stumbled upon 57 cases where flats were allotted to ineligible employees.
The authorities have sent eviction notices all these unwanted occupants, asking them to vacate their apartments by April end. The notice also warns of strict action in case of non-compliance.
The instances of unauthorised stay came to light after certain ATM personnels sought information about allotment of housing blocks at places like Andheri and inside the Juhu airport through the Right to Information Act.
"There are so many employees who are earning high rents from their own flats while at the same time enjoying the accommodation provided by the AAI" said a senior ANS official.
The ineligible employees are those who already have a home obtained through a loan from AAI or any financial institution, within 25 km from the airport.
Senior AAI officials say the air navigation system department at the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport has seen an alarming trend over the past few years, wherein employees, who were transferred to Mumbai, would pull strings to stop their relocation.
The reason for this hesitation has been attributed to acute shortage of accommodation near the airport. "Due to lack of accommodation near the ATC, the department always faces a staff crunch, which raises questions air safety."
The seriousness of the staff shortage can be gauged from the fact that at least 120 cases of airprox have been recorded in the last five years. Airprox refers to a situation when two aircraft come dangerously close to each other mid-air.
According to industry insiders, ANS staffers all over the world are provided accommodation near their workplace and are given short duty hours as stress could prove to be hazardous to air traffic operations. But in Mumbai, lack of manpower forces many ANS employees to put in long hours at work, which is against the rules.