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Scrutiny
 
BEST OF B&E 2011 "AVIATION: DGCA, B&E ISSUE DATED 14/04/2011"
Why hasn’t the DGCA head been suspended yet?
The DGCA head should be immediately suspended & questioned on numerous loopholes in our aviation infrastructure endangering thousands
Issue Date - 19/01/2012
 
“Whoever willfully flies any aircraft in such a manner as to cause danger to any person or to any property on land or water or in the air shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine which may extend to ten lakh rupees, or with both.” These are the glorious words from the Aircraft (Amendment) Act, 2007 that adorns the website of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation. The onus of any ‘flight’ crime endangering lives or property, as per the Act, only lies with the pilots and not with anybody else. Given the latest rot exposed in the fudging of pilots’ marks, one questions why this Act should not be expanded to include in its ambit even on-ground officials like the DGCA head who, either through deliberate commission or omission, has been as much a party to the issue of endangering lives of flyers as the criminal pilots themselves. While pilots have been arrested, and so have some low-key DGCA officials; the huge question is, why hasn’t the DGCA chief Bharat Bhushan, IAS, been suspended till now?

Charge 1 – Criminal negligence: The latest series of scams show how pilots used forged mark sheets to secure their ‘Airline Transport Pilot Licences’. These licenses are required by co-pilots to graduate to become a ‘commander’. 4,000 such licences are under scrutiny. The police have arrested Parminder Kaur Gulati of Indigo and Jitender Kishen Verma of Air India in this scam. These pilots forged mark-sheets in order to obtain their respective licences. Even a veteran pilot – Air India captain J. K. Verma (flying for Air India since 1989) – forged his testimonials to get his licence. Arjun Giare, who obtained his license through a faked mark-sheet (forged Class 10 certificate to meet the minimum age criteria) was even suspended in the year 2000 by the US Federal Aviation Authority. In another case, Garima Passi, daughter of Director of Air Safety in DGCA, was suspended recently as even her licence was based on forged documents. Crime branch officers (who are investigating this case) have commented that “such a scam could not have taken place without some DGCA officials being in the know.”

Charge 2 - Gross disrespect for human lives: Forget the current scam, the DGCA is still ambivalent on their decision of suspending/cancellation of the license of any pilot for three months if he/she is caught drunk while flying. As per the Act, such pilots should have been jailed and fined. When was the last time you heard of such an imprisonment? Never, right? Pilots mostly escape this test as it is conducted only for vulnerable/important routes. Also, no such test is conducted post a flight.

Charge 3 - Killer airports: DGCA officials have still not improved the safety infrastructure of airports. Numerous airports in India have shorter runways as against the international norm of 9,000 ft. This forces pilots to take-off at high speeds and calls for planes to fly light. The Mangalore plane crash, which killed 158 people, was due to a short runway & pilot inexperience.

When a government organization is found corrupt, for example in the AICTE case, more often than not, the entire organization needs a revamp. Even the credentials of past DGCA head SNA Zaidi, who was appointed in 2008 (currently Secretary at Ministry of Civil Aviation) and whose appointment led to a court case, are flawed as he is not from a technical airlines background. Zaidi & Bhushan have recently hinted that DGCA is understaffed. When we checked their roster of employees from available statistics, the count was close to 350. Understaffed? Ineffective, inefficient and insidious would have been better adjectives. If the government really wishes to change the DGCA’s corrupt practices, the first person to be kicked out should be its head.

 

Sray Agarwal           

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