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Too many shops, stores could hit emergency evacuation at Delhi airport: Panel

The report also deprecated “the complicity” of the civil aviation ministry, pointing out that the advice of security agencies is being overlooked for commercial interests.

delhi Updated: Apr 29, 2017 10:43 IST
DK Singh
The departure lounge of T1 handles more passengers than it is designed for. A public accounts committee draft report says commercial establishments in T1, T3 set up ignoring CISF red flags.
The departure lounge of T1 handles more passengers than it is designed for. A public accounts committee draft report says commercial establishments in T1, T3 set up ignoring CISF red flags.(AP File Photo)

Too many shops and restaurants at New Delhi’s Indira Gandhi international airport could jeopardise lives of passengers during an emergency but the airport operator and the government have ignored these safety concerns, a parliamentary panel has concluded.

In a draft report, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) saw the commercial establishments as a “big hindrance” to evacuation plans.

CISF handles airport security across the country.

HT accessed the draft report that was taken up for adoption at the PAC meeting last week.

The committee indicted the operators, Delhi International Airport Limited (DIAL) and the ministry of civil aviation for what it says was the “unscientific commercial usage” of the space available for passengers, especially restaurants, retail outlets, duty-free complexes and executive lounges.

“The advice of security agencies is being overlooked for commercial interests,” the report said, while also deprecating “the complicity” of the civil aviation ministry.

“Members of the committee felt that mishap or disaster could be foreseen given the present state of narrow lanes for movement of passengers”.

According to the report, CISF director-general OP Singh raised the issues in letters to the civil aviation ministry but got no response.

A delegation of 14 PAC members met Singh during a visit to the airport’s two passenger terminals on March 7.

The CISF DG did not give a comment for this story. A ministry spokesperson too did not offer any comment on the PAC’s observations.

The PAC also noted that it received feedback from air passengers association of India (APAI) that the experience of flyers is “nightmarish”: services are expensive, lounges and restrooms are dirty, quality of food sub-par, food courts ill-managed, seating facility at lounges not adequate, and baggage handling counters are inconvenient.

“The committee was told that though feedback forms are available, no action is taken on these suggestions/complaints. The committee deplores the laxity of MoCA (ministry of civil aviation) for not taking strict action against the operators in this regard.” The Delhi International Airport Private Ltd (DIAL) is a joint venture consortium led by the GMR Group.

A DIAL spokesperson said the airport’s terminals were well within global aviation standards in terms of the proportion of area given out to commercial setups with respect to the overall size of the terminal.

“In the last six years, IGI airport has retained a stellar ranking in Airport Service Quality (ASQ). The airport serves as a model to most other airports in India and worldwide on parameters such as passenger amenities, user friendliness, accessibility, cleanliness, security, entertainment, retail offerings and various other aspects,” the spokesperson said.

The two terminals, T1 and T3, serve more than 150,000 passengers every day with nearly 1,200 flights arriving or departing.

HT has reported that the domestic terminal, T1, currently handles more passengers than it was designed for.

The adoption of the report was deferred, according to sources, due to differences of opinion over the demand by a BJP MP that the panel should recommend a CBI inquiry into the alleged violations of the agreement between DIAL and the airport authority of India.

The panel also criticised the airport operators for licensing out land around the terminals without making any study about the passenger movement, their accommodation needs and accessibility to the airport “which is evident from a large number of hotels cropping up in the area and consequent illegal use of the licensed land for other purposes.”

The delegation that visited the airport comprised chairman KV Thomas, BJP MP Nishikant Dubey, BJD MP Bhartruhari Mahtab and Congress MP Shantaram Naik, and 10 other parliamentarians

The panel also expressed reservation against the “unethical” development fee on passengers, saying that they should not be made to pay for airport infrastructure that is the “sole responsibility” of DIAL and its shareholders.