Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Audit of DGCA: keep your fingers crossed

No speech or article about Indian civil aviation is complete these days without the claim that “India will be the third largest civil aviation market globally in the next decade or so”. However, the claim is like the story of the brawny guy who managed to lift up a just-born elephant calf and then deluded himself into believing that if he picked up the calf every morning, he would one day be able to accomplish the feat of lifting it up a full-grown elephant through a daily marginal increase in his capability. The fallacy is self-evident, but apparently not to the Indian establishment which continues to overlook the pitfalls that confront civil aviation. Unless there is a fundamental change of approach, Indian civil aviation is set to plateau out much before it reaches the currently projected podium position.

The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), the UN body keeping watch on air safety, had planned to audit Indian civil aviation in March this year, but the Direct General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) requested that the audit be deferred to November. The request is innocuous, but raises some disconcerting questions about India’s past performance in audits (and the possible outcome of this one).

India was first audited by ICAO under its Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme (USAOP) in 2006, followed by an ICAO Coordinated Validation Mission, which falls short of an audit, in 2012, after which India was placed very near the foot of a list of nations audited. This was followed by a full-fledged audit in November-December 2015, which found that India performed below the global average in legislation, organisation, accident investigation and aerodromes, while faring better than the global average in licensing, operations, airworthiness and air navigation. The full details of the audit and the DGCA action taken report are not in the public domain as an RTI application was reportedly rebuffed thus, “The information is outside the purview of the RTI Act”.
25/10/17 AK Sachdev/Deccan Herald