Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Indigo MD Rahul Bhatia Summoned By Lok Sabha Panel Over 'Protocol Violations' Involving MPs

New Delhi: The Lok Sabha’s privilege committee has summoned Indigo managing director Rahul Bhatia and a few other aviation stakeholders on August 30 to answer allegations of unspecified “protocol violations” made by some Lok Sabha MPs.

According to ANI, the MPs in question have said that they were not extended due courtesy and facilities at the airport. This complaint was raised during the recently concluded monsoon session of parliament. The parliamentarians said the necessary protocol was not accorded to them at the airports by the airline companies and security agencies, including airport operators.

The committee of privileges is currently chaired by Bharatiya Janata Party MP Sunil Kumar Singh from Jharkhand and has 14 other members.

No details have been made public about the nature of these “violations”, nor is it clear what the legal basis is for a parliamentary committee to direct private airlines to treat some passengers, i.e. MPs, better than others.

The ministry’s remit clearly extends to airport management, even private airports, as these are contractually obliged to conform to official rules, as well as security agencies.

As for what is expected from airlines, however,  the Times of India in 2021 reported the contents of a letter sent that year by the Ministry of Civil Aviation when Hardeep Puri was minister, detailing the protocol Air India – still state owned at the time – was required to provide MPs. The letter added that “all concerned are requested to comply with the same in letter and spirit” – implying that the government hoped private airlines would follow suit.

Among the demands made by the ministry:

“Duty manager, facilitation and senior staff to facilitate hon’ble MPs for completion of check-in formalities when they report at the airport. Seats of their choice to be allotted to them subject to availability. Efforts should be made to reserve seats in front row for hon’ble MPs. AI travel details of hon’ble MPs should be passed on to the concerned airport directors so that necessary assistance could be extended to MPs through the identified protocol officer.”

22/08/2023 Wire

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