Two days after voters threw the Congress-led United Progressive Front (UPA) out of power, a non-profit body formed by frequent air travellers questioned the government over giving VVIP status to Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s sonin-law Robert Vadra at Indian airports.
The Air Passengers’ Association of India (APAI) on Monday sent a letter to civil aviation secretary Ashok Lavasa asking for explanation on why a privilege granted only to the president and former presidents, cabinet ministers, chief ministers and senior judges, among other Special Protection Group (SPG) protectees, was being offered to Vadra.
The controversy over why Vadra is not frisked at Indian airports had first surfaced two years ago.
“We received eight mails from air travellers across the country curious about t he special privilege. We want the ministry to respond to these fliers,” said Sudhakar Reddy, national vice-president, APAI.
Despite repeated attempts, Lavasa was not available for comment.
As per government records, Vadra i s exempt f rom preembarkation security checks as a ‘special case’ when he is travelling with his wife Priyanka, who is an SPG protectee. APAI members said questions are being raised after people spotted Vadra’s name on an Airports Authority of India banner at various airports that lists VIPs eligible for special treatment. “Passengers have sent photos of the list featuring Vadra’s name, with queries,” Reddy said.
Fliers are also curious about whether Vadra will continue to enjoy the benefit after the UPA’s defeat, APAI members said.
Officials with the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security, which draws up the list, were not available for comment, but the Central Industrial Security Force, which guards airports, said no changes have been made in the list so far. “We have not received any notification about amending the list,” said Hemendra Singh, spokesperson, CISF.