NEW DELHI: Only 30 categories of top VVIPs — ranging from the President to SPG protectees — are exempt from security checks at Indian airports. But in a glaring oversight for eight long years till last Friday, Lalu Yadav and wife Rabri Devi were ‘wrongly’ spared pre-embarkation security checks (PESC) at Patna Airport despite not being in any position on this list of 30 exempt categories.
In 2009, the then Congress-led Central government had granted the ally Yadav couple’s vehicle tarmac access at Patna airport. “This enabled them to alight from the vehicle right close to the step ladder of aircraft at Patna and then board the same without any security checks. Their hand baggage meant to be taken on board also went without any checks,” said a source.
This gross violation of PESC rules continued unchecked till the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) received a complaint last Friday about Lalu often being accompanied by some other person (not Rabri) in the car to board planes from Patna and their hand baggage also getting on board unchecked straight from the car. Lalu is a frequent flyer from and to Patna. The presence of this RJD MLC in Lalu’s car on several occasions started raising eyebrows but being the ‘Godfather’ of the RJD-JD(U)-Congress alliance government in Bihar, no one dared questions the RJD strongman at the airport.
“The complaint was received by BCAS chief Rajesh Kumar Chandra last Friday evening. Chandra immediately sent a mail to the Central Industrial Security Force(CISF) that is responsible for passenger frisking at airports and pointed out that Lalu, Rabri may have been allowed tarmac access in their car at Patna, they were not exempt from PESC,” said a source. As former CM and ex-MP, Lalu and Rabri do not fall in the list of dignitaries exempt from PESC.
Chandra marked a copy of this letter to aviation secretary R N Choubey also, who on Friday night itself ordered the withdrawal of term tarmac access to Bihar politic’s first couple — thereby making it mandatory for them to board flights from terminals after going through all security checks for self and baggage.
So, a quick decision taken on last Friday in a matter of hours brought to an end the privilege granted to Lalu-Rabri by UPA in 2009. While chief ministers and deputy CMs are exempt from PESC, Lalu had resigned as Bihar CM in July 1997 after getting embroiled in the fodder scam and Rabri Devi’s third term as CM ended in March 2005.