Tharoor vs Scindia: War of words continues over airport chaos

Kohima: Tharoor advises Civil Aviation Minister to apologise to passengers instead of name-calling

BY | Thursday, 18 January, 2024
(PC: Wikimedia commons)

The war of words on X between Congress leader Shashi Tharoor and Union Minister of Civil Aviation and Steel, Jyotiraditya M Scindia continued on Thursday. It all began on Wednesday when Tharoor a string of posts on the micro blogging platform, criticizing the Central Government and the Ministry of Civil Aviation for the chaos at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi. 53 flights were cancelled at IGI Airport on Wednesday due to dense fog.

“Thousands of peoples’ lives and schedules have been disrupted by a regular, predictable, foggy winter day. It’s a ModiGovt-made disaster, a result of the Ministry of Civil Aviation’s neglect and incompetence” Tharoor had said, with references to several articles reported by various news platforms.

On Thursday, the Congress leader posted that it is a pity that since switching sides, Scindia has adopted the Modi Government’s “uncaring attitude to the public”.

On Wednesday, the Civil Aviation Minister had said, “It is for someone who is lost in his esoteric world of thesaurus that data mining of selective press articles from the internet qualifies as “research”.”

On Thursday, Tharoor also said he that did not need an “esoteric thesaurus” to respond to Scindia. He further stated that around 80,000 passengers had their flights cancelled on 14th and 15th January alone and lakhs were suffering the delay of flights. He also added that it was “prudent” of the Minister to apologise to the passengers rather than “engage in nugatory name-calling.”

Tharoor had earlier slammed the government for the incomplete work on one of the CAT III-B compliant runway where pilots can land even when there is fog or low visibility of 50 metres. He had claimed that India has insufficient trained pilots who can land with CAT III-B instrument landing. Tharoor said that there is an even higher category of instrument landing called CAT III-C, which can land at zero visibility and questioned why India is yet to get one for IGI Airport in the Capital when major international airports across the world have multiple.

In reply to these, the Civil Aviation Minister informed that India has 6191 CAT II/CAT III trained pilots and that in the past three months alone the number of trained pilots has grown by 16 per cent. He also clarified that the DGCA mandates airlines to deploy CAT IIIB compliant aircraft only with qualified crew during the winter season and that any violation is strictly dealt with

Scindia added that even though the two CAT III runways are capable and sufficiently trained CAT III pilots are made available, majority of the aircraft fleet are not designed for Zero Visibility operations.

Further, Tharoor slammed the authorities for not caring for the passengers’ comfort and keeping them updated. “DGCA has also been unable to enforce basic passenger rights. Depending on the length of a flight delay, airlines are required to provide food and drink & free accommodations, or pay compensation,” he said on X.

Admitting that the incident where passengers were made to sit at the tarmac was “unacceptable”, Scindia said that action has been taken against it and further, SOPs for better communication to passengers were also issued. He added that the civil aviation requirements (CARs) “implemented during the UPA rule in 2010 were, as expected, inadequate for enforcing passenger rights and had to be amended multiple times by the DGCA to incorporate provisions for safeguarding passenger rights!”

Scindia further highlighted that the fleet size has increased from 400 in 2014 to 730 under the BJP government and will reach 1,500 – 2,000 by 2030. He added that airports have doubled from 74 in the last 65 years to 149 today and will reach 220 in the next 3-4 years.

In reply, Tharoor said, “The claims about doubling the number of airports is one of your most-repeated concoctions.” He mentioned that in 2014, the Airports Authority of India annual report shows that there were already 125 airports in India and therefore in 10 years, BJP added just 20 airports. In comparison, from 2004 to 2014, the UPA added 35 operational airports, he said.

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