Govt reviewing privileges at airports, list of beneficiary VIPs

The Ministry of Civil Aviation has decided to review privileges available to VIPs at airports in India and rationalise the list of dignitaries exempted from pre-embarkation security checks vis-a-vis other foreign countries.

As a first step, Civil Aviation Secretary K N Shrivastava wrote to all Indian missions abroad on January 18 seeking details about the facilities available to dignitaries in those countries at domestic and international airports, including exemption from pre-embarkation security checks.

The idea, said sources, is to prune down the list of 30 categories of VIPs exempted from frisking to between four and six.

The ministry has also written to the Ministry of External Affairs requesting it to check the facility of ceremonial lounges extended to VIPs at international airports. The ceremonial lounge at IGI airport is controlled by the MEA.

The ministry's move follows complaints that Indian dignitaries were not allowed the facility of ceremonial lounges when abroad, and that Indian embassies had to pay lounge charges, revealed a top official. The idea is to now have this on a reciprocal basis.

Among other things being reviewed is the privilege extended to former civil aviation ministers currently in the Union Cabinet to be driven up to the aircraft at all airports in India.

Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh confirmed instructing the ministry to rationalise the privileges list. "We have former presidents in the list, unlike any other country, and so many other categories which are exempted from frisking... This has to be done on a reciprocal basis," he said.

Singh also confirmed reviewing the list of those allowed to drive up to the aircraft. "Even my car does not go up to the aircraft," he said.

An officer said privileges available to former aviation secretaries like unrestricted access at airports and free upgrades on Air India were also under review.

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