Inside story: Airport VIP access annulled after Lalu, Rabri found bypassing security
“Prasad and Devi were avoiding pre-embarkation security check before boarding an aircraft at the Patna airport, even though they did not figure in the list of 30 exempted dignitaries,” said an official.india Updated: Jul 24, 2017 10:05 IST
The ministry of civil aviation (MoCA) worked with remarkable alacrity to annul, in less than five hours, its previous order, granting tarmac access at the Patna airport on their own vehicles to Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) president Lalu Prasad and his wife Rabri Devi, MLC, both former chief ministers of Bihar.
Top sources in the ministry told HT the action followed a tip-off given by unidentified sources to the director-general of police (DGP), Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS), that Prasad and Rabri were going up to the aircraft without going through the mandatory security procedures.
“Taking advantage of the airport VIP access, Prasad and Devi were avoiding pre-embarkation security check before boarding an aircraft at the Patna airport, even though they did not figure in the list of 30 exempted dignitaries,” said an official.
The DGP, BCAS, immediately flagged the issue to the MoCA secretary through an email, sent at 6pm on July 21. Thereafter, the ministry worked overtime, and by 10.30 pm the same evening, it had communicated to the BCAS its decision to annul its previous advisory, allowing the couple VIP access, issued on July 30, 2009.
In just about 30 minutes, the BCAS headquarters communicated the information to its regional office at Kolkata, which caters to the Patna airport. The e-mailed order reached the Patna airport director and the chief aerodrome security officer by 11.30 pm, July 21.
Sources said there was also realisation among the officials concerned that even otherwise Prasad’s airport VIP access privilege should not have continued after he was convicted in a fodder scam case in October 2013, and sentenced to five years in jail.
Sources said, at Patna airport, Prasad and Devi had enjoyed almost the same privilege as one extended to the President, Vice-President, Prime Minister, Chief Justice of India, SPG protectees and the Dalai Lama, who are allowed tarmac access in their own vehicles across India.
Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan and BJP Patna Saheb MP Shatrughan Sinha have been allowed use of ‘airport ferry vehicle’, wherever the facility exists. This means they can drive up to the tarmac for boarding a flight or being received while alighting from a flight in a vehicle provided by the Airports Authority of India (AAI).
The two leaders from Bihar have been granted the privilege on “medical grounds”.
Again, while the August 1, 2009 order of the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) for Prasad and Rabri was open-ended (that is, without an expiry date), that of Paswan and Sinha is reviewed every year before being extended for a maximum duration of one year. The May 23 MoCA order, in case of Sinha, is valid till June 30, 2018.
Sources said even before the July 2009 order, Prasad had been enjoying Patna airport tarmac access as railways minister, since 2005 when the BCAS first allowed him the privilege. The BCAS 2005 order came within 48 hours of the then Patna airport director Atul Dikshit disallowing Prasad’s vehicle from going to the tarmac.
Thereafter, on July 30, 2009, the MoCA issued a separate letter to the BCAS, advising it to extend the same privilege to Prasad and his wife. The letter followed a change in Prasad’s status from a Union cabinet minister in 2005 to an MP in 2009.
As such, Prasad continued to enjoy the privilege despite being disqualified as a member of the Lok Sabha from Chapra in October 2013, after being sentenced to five years in jail in a fodder scam case.
First Published: Jul 23, 2017 18:25 IST