Union ministers of state, former vice-presidents, deputy chief ministers and the cabinet secretary are among those who may have to queue up at airports and get frisked, just like ordinary passengers for security clearance, if the government approves an aviation ministry proposal.
The proposal, which may well be the first-ever attempt at curbing India’s VIP culture, seeks to significantly prune the very-very important person (VVIP) categories that are exempt from “pre-embarkation security checks at India’s airports” — restricting the perk to the first nine categories that feature in the government’s Table of Precedence, the protocol list in which officials are placed.
“No other country, to my knowledge, has such a bulky list of VIPs exempt from security checks. It’s a mockery of air safety regulations. The simple question that begs an answer is why can our VIPs not stand in queues and pass through a security check?” questioned a ministry official.
If accepted, the proposal will allow only certain VVIPs, including the President, the vice- president, the Prime Minister and governors, among others, to board planes without going through multilayered clearance.
Former presidents, deputy prime minister, the Chief Justice of India, speaker of the Lok Sabha, Union cabinet ministers, chief ministers, former prime ministers, leaders of Opposition in both Houses, Bharat Ratna awardees, ambassadors, Supreme Court judges, UPSC chairperson, chief election commissioner and the comptroller and auditor general of India will also retain their exemption from frisking status and have been clubbed under nine VVIP categories in the new plan.
At present, 31 categories of VVIPs are exempt from such checks, according to the list maintained by the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security ( BCAS), India’s aviation security regulator.
The views of the home and external affairs ministries on the proposal have been sought and are awaited, top aviation ministry officials told HT.
Those who could lose the perk of boarding a plane without getting frisked include the deputy chairperson of the Rajya Sabha, deputy speaker of the Lok Sabha, the attorney general, lieutenant governors of Union territories, chiefs of staffs holding the rank of full general of equivalent rank, chief justices of high courts, chief ministers and deputy chief ministers of Union territories, and Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law Robert Vadra.
Vadra alone is mentioned by name, and not by category, in the current VVIP list of people who are exempt from being frisked at airports.
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