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OffStumped For All Things Right of Center, Bringing a Right of Centre Reality Check to Indian Politics, News Media Reporting and Opinion now in Hindi अब आप के लिये हिंदी मे.
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A special air force jet carrying Sonia Gandhi came within 1,000ft of a Virgin Atlantic flight last week but civil aviation officials said the “air-miss” posed no danger.  DGCA chief Kanu Gohain, however, said “no unsafe situation was created” as both the planes, the IAF jet and Virgin’s Airbus A 340, which was coming from London, were under constant radar surveillance and VHF (very high frequency) radar contact.

Well we are all glad to know there was no “unsafe situation” but what exactly is the Indian Air Force doing flying Sonia Gandhi around ?

Offstumped dug into Government of India documents to see what the policy for use of Indian Air Force flights was and found this.

Ministry of Defence maintains a fleet of aircraft in the Air Force Communication Squadron at New Delhi to provide air transport within the country to VIPs. The squadron operates three Boeing 737, seven Avro aircraft and six MI-8 helicopters. The orders regulating the use of special VIP flights stipulate that except the President, Vice President, the Prime Minister and the Heads of foreign Governments who are categorised as “VVIP”, other entitled personages (OEPs) i.e. Defence Minister, Minister of Home Affairs, Cabinet Secretary, other ministers of the Central Government, Minister of State in the Ministry of Defence, Chiefs of the three Services, Defence Secretary and senior Service and civilian officers connected with Defence organisations can also avail of the facility of special flight. However, other entitled personages are to make use of commercial air services on official duty, whenever possible.

This from a 1998 Comptroller and Auditor General, CAG report on Defence. The audit goes into excrutiating detail of how IAF aircrafts are used for everything but Defence. Notice there is no mention of VIP’s outside the Government in the OEP category. Now Sonia Gandhi was accorded Cabinet Minister status as Chairperson of the National Advisory Council, NAC. A post she no longer holds after the Office of Profit fiasco.

So under what exact status is the UPA Chairman and Congress President who is merely a Member of Parliament is entitled to the use of IAF Jets ?

So Offstumped looked even harder for instances where the policy was maybe revised during the UPA regime and found this. A May 2005 press release by the Ministry of Defense reiterating the policy for use of IAF aircrafts.

Entitled Passengers

(a) The President, the Vice President and the Prime Minister are entitled to the use of the VIP Aircraft.

(b) The following passengers are also entitled to the use of the VIP aircraft, it if is essential to do so and an aircraft is available:-

1. Minister of Defence;

2. Minister of Home Affairs;

3. Minister of State in the Ministry of Defence;

4. Chief of the Army Staff;

5. Chief of the Naval Staff;

6. Chief of the Air Staff;

7. Defence Secretary;

8. Other Ministers of the Central Government and senior services and civilian officers who are connected with the Defence Organisation; and

9. Cabinet Secretary.

(c) It is expected that, except the President, the Vice President and the Prime Minister other users will make use commercial air services on official duty, whenever possible.

(d) The aircraft of the VIP flight are to be used on official duty only.

(e) For entitled passengers when journey is not for defence purposes the cost will be recovered accordingly to scales prescribed from time to time .

(f) No recovery will be made in cases where the Competent Authority for reasons of State decides to provide an Air lift.

(g) Normally for visits of a Commission IAF aircraft are not provided.

Again no mention of Members of Parliament.

Offstumped Poser to the Government : What exactly is Sonia Gandhi doing misusing Indian Air Force jets in blatant violation of policy ?

http://offstumped.nationalinterest.in/2007/09/18/why-is-the-iaf-flying-sonia-gandhi/#comments

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