Wednesday, October 07, 2020

UPA's Air India One Proposal For Its VVIPs Renders Rahul's 'PM Wants Since Trump Has' Void



Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday hit back at Prime Minister Modi and the BJP after the Wayanad MP was mocked for sitting on cushioned seats on a tractor during anti-farm laws tractor rally in Punjab. Gandhi quipped that the Prime Minister's 'Air India One' did not just have a cushion but a whole lot of luxury beds for his comfort and accused him of "wasting" thousands of crores of rupees on the plane just because "his friend Donald Trump has one."

However, sources told Republic that the process of procuring these aircraft began around a decade ago under the UPA Government. Taking a jibe at Rahul Gandhi, the source said that perhaps like most other initiatives of the UPA government, "Rahul Gandhi wants to disown this procurement too?" Rahul Gandhi is entitled to his disregard for the UPA government, but not entitled to his own facts, they added. 

Sources said that the two aircraft are not the Prime Minister's aircraft as Gandhi dubbed them and but they will be used for other VVIPs. These aircraft belong to the Indian Air Force and not the Prime Minister, the sources said. The Modi government has only brought that process to its logical conclusion, they added.

The process of acquisition of two new aircraft for the travel of VVIPs commenced in 2011 when upon the direction of Group of Ministers (GOM), a meeting of Committee of Secretaries (CoS) was held wherein it was decided that an Inter-Ministerial Group (IMG) would examine the available options for long term arrangement of VVIP aircraft.

In the same year, an Inter-Ministerial Group (IMG) coordinated by Cabinet Secretariat was set up to consider all the options, including acquisition, management and utilization of aircraft for VVIP operations. IMG met around ten times and submitted recommendations in 2012. Two options were recommended- convert an existing B777 ER or use one of the new ones that were ordered by Air India but yet to be delivered.

Further, Cabinet Secretariat recommended the transfer of the aircraft to the Indian Air Force in August 2013. Thereafter, the process was just brought to its logical conclusion. It may be noted that the aircraft used for VVIP travel till now, the famed Air India Jumbo Jets are more than 25 years old. Not only are they incapable of long, trans-Atlantic flights, forcing halt enroute for refuelling and replenishment purposes, they are also fuel guzzlers of epic proportions, sources said.

07/10/20 Republic World

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