• Aviation ministry cuts down airport entry passes for staff of MPs and ministers

    The next time you encounter a minister or parliamentarian at the airport, the posse that typically follows them everywhere will likely be missing.

    In a bid to secure airports further post the terror attack in Brussels, the civil aviation ministry has decided to cut down on the number of airport entry passes (AEPs) being provided to the staff of union ministers and MPs.

    Henceforth, only one member from the staff will have full access at the airports. Others, if sought, will get limited access till the security check area. Until now, there was no limit on the issue of such access cards.

    “There is no need for so many people to enter the airport to drop the minister or MP, as airlines and airport operators provide them with protocol officers to look after their requirements and drop them till the aircraft,” said a senior civil aviation ministry official, who did not want to be named.

    The proposal has been approved by both civil aviation ministers — cabinet minister Ashok Gajapati Raju and minister of state Mahesh Sharma – soon after the terrorist attack on the Brussels airport.

    A lot of AEPs issued to the officials of the civil aviation ministry will also be withdrawn, said the official. “The ministry has started rejecting requests for AEP and we have rejected a proposal for AEP from a union minister’s personal secretary,” said another civil aviation ministry official.

    Demand to curtail the number of these permits was always there, but it couldn’t be implemented because of opposition from its beneficiaries. The ministry was until recently liberal in issuing the access cars and requests from any MP or minister was immediately process without asking any question.

    “There are lot of things that we want to do, but are unable to do,” said a top ministry official. “The Brussels strike surely acted as an enabler in achieving this.”

    Analysts say such permits should be completely abolished.

    “I do not understand the logic behind passes to receive ministers or MPs from inside the aircraft. This does not happen anywhere in the world,” said Shakti Lumba, former head of operations at Air India and IndiGo.

    On the security point of view, Lumba said, a bigger worry is temporary airport employees involved in ground handling.

    “These people have access to baggage, aircraft and other sensitive installations at the airport. The government needs to ensure that such employees are not temporary because airlines, normally, outsource these services to contractors.”

    The civil aviation ministry, along with the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security – the aviation security wing of the government – in a series of measures have also stopped sale of visitor tickets at all airports.

    “The ban on entry of visitors inside the airport was immediately put in place after the attack in Brussels,” said one of the ministry officials cited earlier.  

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