Safety goes for a toss

Danger zone Corrupt officials have put air travel security under a cloud. Photo: AP
Danger zone Corrupt officials have put air travel security under a cloud. Photo: AP

Airline companies did not want to rub Manoj Malviya the wrong way because as a top aviation security officer who decided traffic routes, he had the power to play spoilsport. And Malviya knew that his uniform could give him — as well as his family — wings.

According to the CBI, Malviya, the then additional commissioner in the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS),had taken his family to 28 destinations all over the world between 2005 and 2010, reportedly paying just 1 lakh against tickets worth around 6 crore.

The IPS officer who had been on deputation with the civil aviation ministry had been sent back to West Bengal, where he is now an ADGP (forest). He is now facing CBI prosecution.

TEHELKA accessed internal emails sent by Vinod Sareen, vice-president, corporate communications, Jet Airways, arranging the favours that Malviya had asked for, which will give a glimpse of the freebies that he enjoyed.

On 22 September 2009, Sareen wrote to his colleague Premila Kanga.

Dear Mam,
Mr Manoj Malviya will be travelling to Montreal on an official trip to attend (the) ICCO meeting. He would be taking his family to Montreal along with him. He had called me for help and accordingly we are giving them DEL-YYZ-DEL tickets on 9W. Now the ticket for Toronto-Montreal-Toronto will be costing 27,000 per person and they are four of them (his wife+3 children). Mam, I need your authority to buy the revenue tickets on Air Canada for their travel to Toronto-Montreal-Toronto or if you tell our Toronto station to issue the same as they might get cheaper fare in Toronto.

On 25 March 2010, Lt Col Jothi Shankar, chief security officer, Jet Airways, wrote to Sareen.

Dear Mr Sareen,
As discussed, Mr Manoj Malviya, Addl. COSCA, BCAS has requested for hotel accommodation for two nights i.e., 27th March and 28th March 2010 in Amsterdam but the booking should be done under a different name. He has also requested for a vehicle to travel to Brussels from Amsterdam.

Corrupt security officers and airline officials who are ready to bribe them have put air travel security under a cloud.

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Between 2011 and this June, nearly 100 pilots were found to be drunk in pre-flight breathalyzer tests, and most of them were from Jet Airways (28), followed by Indigo and Spicejet (17 each).

Two years ago, a BCAS audit exposed serious lapses at several non-metro airports. The inspection found that the airports were using damaged X-ray machines and faulty metal detectors. Many did not have explosive detectors.

As a top officer of the BCAS, Malviya might have been in charge of security at the airports and the flights we had taken. So, how safe were we? How could he put his foot down on security issues while his family was using private airlines to go on junkets?

Why do private airlines oblige demands from officers such as Malviya? What could be the return favours? What compromises had such largesse resulted in?

Malviya could be just the tip of the iceberg. How many such bureaucrats have been flying around at the expense of passengers’ safety?


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