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Why Hasn’t The DGCA head been Suspended yet?
The DGCA head should be Immediately Suspended & Questioned on numerous loopholes in our Aviation Infrastructure Endangering Thousands
“Whoever willfully flies any aircraft in such a manner as to cause danger to any person or to any property on land or water or in the air shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine which may extend to ten lakh rupees, or with both.” These are the glorious words from the Aircraft (Amendment) Act, 2007 that adorns the website of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation. Whoever from DGCA was consulted for making this Act must have been either extremely shrewd or farsighted... or both. The onus of any ‘flight’ crime endangering lives or property, as per the Act, only lies with the pilots and not with anybody else. Given the latest rot exposed in the fudging of pilots’ marks, one questions why this Act should not be expanded to include in its ambit even on-ground officials like the head of DGCA who, either through deliberate commission or omission, have been as much party to the issue of endangering lives of flyers as the criminal pilots themselves. While pilots have been arrested, and so have been some low-key DGCA officials, the huge question is, why hasn’t the DGCA head, an IAS officer called SNA Zaidi, been suspended till now?
Charge 1 - Criminal negligence: The latest series of scams shows how pilots used forged mark sheets to secure their ‘Airline Transport Pilot Licences’. These licenses are required by co-pilots to graduate to become a ‘commander’. 4,000 such licences are under scrutiny. The police have arrested Parminder Kaur Gulati of Indigo and Jitender Kishen Verma of Air India in this scam. These pilots forged mark-sheets in order to obtain their respective licences. Even a veteran pilot – Air India captain J. K. Verma (flying for Air India since 1989) – forged his testimonials to get his licence. Arjun Giare, who obtained his license through a faked mark-sheet (forged Class 10 certificate to meet the minimum age criteria) was even suspended in the year 2000 by the US Federal Aviation Authority. In another case, Garima Passi, daughter of Director of Air Safety in DGCA, was suspended recently as even her licence was based on forged documents.
Crime branch officers (who are investigating this case) have commented that “such a scam could not have taken place without some DGCA officials being in the know.” Mark-sheets are issued to pilots from the DGCA’s central examination office in R. K. Puram in New Delhi, which are to be submitted to DGCA’s head office for further processing. The issue here is not that pilots have fake licenses – pilots have original and authentic licenses. But these licences are based on fake mark sheets – which possibly could not have been approved at the license issuing end, unless DGCA officials throughout the organisation were complicit to the act.
Charge 2 - Gross disrespect for human lives: Forget the current scam, the DGCA is still ambivalent on their decision of suspending/cancellation of the license of any pilot for three months if he/she is caught drunk while flying. In a situation where hundreds of lives are involved, the DGCA should instead have taken a decision to initiate criminal action against any drunken pilot. As per the Act, such pilots should have been jailed and fined. When was the last time you heard of such an imprisonment? Never, right? Pilots mostly escape this test as it is conducted only for vulnerable/important routes. Also, no such test is conducted post a flight. DGCA should be immediately prosecuting drunk pilots under cases of culpable homicide and attempts to murder and DGCA officials should be arrested for not initiating compulsory alcohol tests pre & post flights in all flight cases.
Charge 3 - Killer airports: DGCA officials have still not improved the safety infrastructure of airports. Numerous airports in India have shorter runways as against the international norm of 9000 ft long runway. This forces pilots to take-off at high speeds and calls for planes to fly light. The Mangalore plane crash, which killed 158 people, was due to a short runway & pilot inexperience. DGCA is too slow in undertaking a full review of safety infrastructure at airports.
When a government organization is found corrupted at the work level, for example in the AICTE case, more often than not, the entire organization needs a revamp. Current DGCA head SNA Zaidi, who was appointed in 2008 and whose appointment led to a court case, is not even a person from a technical airlines background – leave alone one who can be a visionary on such issues. Zaidi has recently given hints that DGCA is understaffed to undertake current issues. When we checked their roster of employees from available statistics, the count was close to 350. Understaffed? Ineffective, inefficient and insidious would have been better adjectives. If the government really wishes to change the DGCA’s corrupt practices, the first person to be kicked out should be its head.
By:- Sray Agarwal
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