A massive flap erupted on Tuesday in parliament over reports that the former people-friendly president of India A P J Abdul Kalam was frisked by officials of the US airline Continental in an undignified contravention of protocol.
Aviation authorities have sought an FIR against Continental for making Kalam take off his shoes and undergo a humiliating security check at Delhi airport before being allowed to board flight CO 083 to Newark on April 21. Indian laws exempt dignitaries like former presidents, ex-PMs, the Chief Justice of India and even Robert Vadra from being frisked at airports.
I shall not comment on the silliness of emphasising that we are talking about a “people-friendly president”! Some queries:
How do Indian laws apply to foreign airlines? What is so humiliating about the check-up? American airlines expect people to remove their shoes, and from all accounts the former Prez was not offended. If he was, he would have issued a statement.
This is being used as a political bait. The matter was raised in Parliament. Aviation minister Praful Patel went to brief Prime Minister Manmohan Singh about the incident and the action being taken by him.
Some party said that this was copping out to “US’s muscle-flexing over the End-Use Monitoring Agreement (EUMA)”.
If that is the case, have these leaders ever stood up for lesser mortals?
The CPM’s Sitaram Yechury said A P J Abdul Kalam had to suffer the humiliation because of his name in what was seen as a reference to the practice of US airlines scanning members of a particular faith post-9/11.
If it is without any security check, then it ought to be stopped. We must remember that Mr. Kalam was not going in an official capacity, so there was no breach of protocol by the airline.
Arun Jaitley pointed out that India allows vehicles to go up to the tarmac for foreign dignitaries.
It is only our laws that make such exemptions. PIA has its own staff after the Indian security check, just before boarding as does Sri Lankan.
Guard of honour
Following are some of the VIPs and their accompanying spouses who are exempted from pre-embarkation security checks at all civil airports in the country:
President, Vice President, PM Governors, Former Presidents Former VPs, CJI, LS Speaker Union ministers of cabinet rank CMs & Deputy CMs Deputy Chairman, Planning commission, Bharat Ratna awardees Leader of opposition in LS & RS Ambassadors of foreign countries, Charge d' Affairs; high commissioners and their spouses
Judges of SC, CEC
Comptroller & Auditor General
Deputy chairman RS & Dy Speaker of LS Among others CJs of HCs, CMs & Dy CMs of UTs, Cabinet secretary, Lt Governors of UTs, Dalai Lama, SPG protectees and Robert Vadra
Why does anyone have to be exempt? How does Robert Vadra qualify? In fact, since many of these people are constantly have X, Y, Z security because they are under threat, then the onus is on them and other passengers should be on guard with these people on their flights because they are targeted and by default the other non “guard of honour” passengers.
Praful Patel seems to have become a busy man. He revealed that as many as 29 pilots had failed pre-flight breath tests conducted to detect alcohol consumption.
Kingfisher topped the list with eight pilots failing the breath test. Low-cost carriers IndiGo and SpiceJet were close on its heels with six pilots each caught in ‘high spirits’. Three pilots each of JetLite, Paramount and Jet Airways were also caught. “Any pilot found to be alcohol positive is immediately grounded for a period of up to six weeks,” Patel said in parliament.
This is by far more important from the point of view of the majority of travellers. Guess which one will stay in the news longer?
“Cong Wins Civic Poll As Gujarat CM’s Muslim Experiment Flops,” said the headline.
Don’t blame Narendra Modi. The loss of his party in the Junagadh civic elections should make it clear that Gujarat will remain communally divisive. He called upon BJP cadres to woo “nationalist Muslims” into the party fold. This is rather sweet because he isn’t a nationalist Hindu or anything. Some found five Muslims to contest and they lost. Others did too, but it is now being said that he has messed up his base by getting these fellows and the “Gujarat ka sher” must not eat halal crow or whatever.
I don’t think it will bother him too much. Now he has a reason to not field any Muslims because some of them lost. Good going.
He will watch the Congress MLAs fumble in his stomping ground. Don’t be surprised if some small skirmishes take place there which will only prove that this does not happen where Modi rules.
Rakhi ka swayamvar and Hindus
Last night’s episode must have been high on drama but I wonder how people who revere the Ganga are taking it. This contestant is from Rishikesh and he took her to the temple and she made him swear to speak the truth. There was constant mention of the pavitra Ganga (the holy river). It turned out to be all lies.
What are we talking about then? Is it not an insult to use a place that is considered holy in such a manner only to grab eyeballs? That character could have been exposed (if it has not been managed already) just for being a liar and a wannabe star. Why bring in religious symbols and stereotypes into all of this as they had done earlier too?