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Praful carries his tarmac privilege to new ministry

Two days after reshuffle,former aviation ministers allowed to drive up to aircraft.

Former civil aviation minister Praful Patel has made sure that even after being moved to another ministry,he gets to keep at least some privileges that came with his earlier territory — or,in his case,tarmac.

Among the last orders that Patel oversaw in his earlier job was one that allows his car to go right up to the aircraft at all airports in India. This privilege — now available to all former civil aviation ministers who are part of the government — was earlier restricted to a handful of individuals including the President,Vice-President and Prime Minister.

The ball was set rolling on the order two months before Patel left office,and was pushed through in a hurry,officials said. On January 21,two days after the Prime Minister shifted Patel to Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises with a cabinet rank,the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) issued a circular saying “all former Civil Aviation Ministers still serving as Union Ministers” may be allowed “access of vehicle up to the tarmac of airports”.

A copy of the BCAS order,accessed by The Indian Express,was marked to Patel at his new office in Udyog Bhawan. When contacted,Patel said,“Many cabinet ministers and chief ministers are security-exempt and have been granted this privilege. This order was in the works for 4-5 months before I left the ministry.”

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The ministry said “frequent requests” from former civil aviation ministers had necessitated the move. However,the circular restricted the privilege only to individuals who are currently ministers in the government.

Thus,former civil aviation ministers from the NDA like Rajiv Pratap Rudy,Ananth Kumar and Shahnawaz Hussain will be stopped at the barricades,but Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad,who was civil aviation minister in the ‘90s,will go through.

Vehicular access to the tarmac has been allowed on a temporary basis in the past to former Andhra chief minister K Rosaiah owing to ill health,and J Jayalalithaa,when she was a coalition partner in the NDA government,because of security reasons.

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The privilege has also led to trouble at airports. An official recalled that two years ago in Bangalore,an aide to former President A P J Abdul Kalam took exception to security’s refusal to let him go on to the tarmac. Spouses of eligible dignitaries too have been kept away.

First published on: 09-02-2011 at 04:25:51 am
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