While flying can be painful sometimes, but what is the government of India trying to do? Is it trying to create a new class for reminding us that they are more equal than the other?
There is anger and frustration inside the people of this country with the political class. Inflation is on rise, investors are fleeing and rupee is always dwindling with the markets. The long list of scams that was unearthed is yet to meet fate. The taxpayer in this country is deprived of many amenities which could make life simpler and better.
Yet one group of people would appear not to have sensed this national anger: the 790 sitting members of Indian parliament.
The UPA government of 10 years is not learning its lesson yet. While the country seethes, the government has asked private airlines to extend “courtesies” to the MPs of the country when they arrive at the airport.
They are more concerned with the problems of fetching their travel bags, accessing lounge, doing priority check-in, getting prompt clearances and free refreshments than looking into the difficulties of a common man.
However, this protocol of accord is nothing new. It has been in place for over three years now. It is just that the aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation has refreshed our memories by issuing a fresh directive to all the airlines saying that they are “not adhering to the guidelines on protocol norms and courtesy to be extended to Members of Parliament.”
According to the reports, the protocol, which is “to be followed by all concerned, including private airports and airlines”, includes reserved lounge facilities, complimentary tea, coffee or water, free access in the terminal building and designation of one officer of airport as Protocol Officer to extend all facilities and courtesies to MPs.
This story is repetition of June, 2012, where the Indian Express had reported a similar story stating that a standing committee of parliament had drafted a “high quality handling protocol” on how MPs should be treated at airports. They want some obvious perks – priority baggage handling, lounge access, pre-reserved seats and their choice of meals.
But in addition, the airport manager or someone she or he “deputizes” must meet the MP at the airport door and oversee handling until the MP is seated on the plane – and the whole process in reverse on landing. The airport station manager was to ensure the flight operates on time.
And in case the parliamentarian was not feeling sufficiently appreciated by the people, cabin crew members were personally to convey “the compliments of the captain.” Needless to mention that the captain was required to file a report on the “handling” of the MP after the flight landed.
The protocol, it should be noted, applied only on the national carrier, Air India, which at that time was barely operational after a months-long pilots’ strike and various financial mismanagement incidents. But this time, it has been extended to all the airlines. Apart from Air India which has been extending such courtesies to the MPs so far, the other airlines which have been instructed are Jet Airways and the no-frills IndiGo, SpiceJet and GoAir.
While flying can be painful sometimes, but what is the government of India trying to do? Is it trying to create a new class for reminding us that they are more equal than the other? Or are they trying to salvage the attention deficit by doing such things after their laal battis were snatched from them?
One bellicose TV anchor assembled a panel of MPs, then brandished the protocol at them and bellowed, “Are you children, that you can’t board an airplane without someone to escort you?” The parliamentarians denied receiving any special treatment.
Every employee of this country, including government employee, is given some pay package perks. If such “courtesies” were a part of the pay package perk, or it was something provided to boost the performance of the parliamentarian, then it was understandable to some extent. But the freebie culture that the MPs have become addicted to is only a burden on the people of this country.
Theirs is an office to serve the people of the country and not an office of status. How will they understand the problems of the people if they remain disconnected from them all the time?
While their travel allowance/travelling facility already provides them a business class ticket for their journey (see end of the article), many of the leaders use personal choppers and special planes to cover their journeys which are not even mentioned in the list of perks given to the MPs.
While last time, Ajit Singh, the Civil Aviation Minister, has said that the protocol won’t cost taxpayers anything, and is simply intended to give hard-working MPs “due respect”, this time he denied existence of any such circular or directive issued by either DGCA or Ministry of Civil Aviation.
However, Union minister Praful Patel, who once headed Civil Aviation Ministry, saw nothing wrong in the directive. “If an MP is given a little bit of privilege, a little bit of respect, I don’t think this should be blown out of proportion,” he was quoted in the media.
CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury did not even see “anything substantial” in the order as the MPs are already getting special handling.
Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah slammed the decision. He tweeted:
To be demanding special privileges for “VIPs” in this political atmosphere takes a special kind of disconnect with reality.
— Omar Abdullah (@abdullah_omar) January 29, 2014
Supreme Court judge Harish Salve took a jibe at MPs in a series of tweets. The two which summed up his frustration were:
so lets be clear. What they want is special treatment without paying for it. Alas ! Habits and mindsets dont change in a hurry.
— Harish Salve (@hsalve) January 29, 2014
I believe the “courtesies” include jumping queues at the security. Might as well allow Lal Baatis on their bags also !!!
— Harish Salve (@hsalve) January 29, 2014
While the nation is already burning with rage against politicians, such order will only increase the determination among them to overthrow the current government.
Some of the tweets here will give you a good idea about what people think now. But the question is: Is the government listening?
Althpugh one can argue – If a certain son-in-law can skip d line why not an MP? Both undeserving. Back to colonialism? #FlyingMaharajas
— Priyanka Shetty (@prrinkz) January 29, 2014
— Mridul Barsaiyan (@mridulbarsaiyan) January 29, 2014
GOI should come up with RED STICKER to be pasted on the forehead of every M.P. Will be convenient for people to spot idiots.#FlyingMaharajas
— Ekta (@iEktaZ) January 29, 2014
Airports are made by our tax money and not theirs.Its high time they start working.#FlyingMaharajas
— Ashoke Pandit (@ashokepandit) January 29, 2014
MPs they r alrdy a burden on d taxpaying citizen. Askn fr flying frills frm private airlines is nthng short of extortion. #FlyingMaharajas
— Anushree Basu-Bhalla (@NoirNoise) January 29, 2014
On Sitaram Yecuhry’s comment
Sitaram Yechuri defending VIP treatment as “courtesies” and “special handling”!! Left is the new center! #flyingmaharajas
— Shweta Nambiar (@SabrinaMathew) January 29, 2014
Travelling Allowance/Travel Facilities to the Members of Parliament
A member is entitled to the following travelling allowances for the journey performed by him for attending a session of the House or a sitting of a Committee or for the purpose of attending to any other business connected with his/her duties as a member from his/her usual place of residence to the place where the above-mentioned business is transacted and for return journey from such place to his/her usual place of residence:
(a) If the journey is performed by rail, an amount equal to one first class fare plus one second class fare irrespective of the class in which the member actually travels.
(b) If the journey is performed by air, an amount equal to one and one-fourth of the air fare for each such journey.
(c) If the journey or any part thereof cannot be performed by rail or air—
(i) Where the journey or any part thereof is performed by steamer an amount equal to one and three-fifths of the fare (without diet) for the highest class in the steamer.
(ii) Where the journey or any part thereof is performed by road, a road mileage at the rate of rupees eight per kilometre.
Provided that where a member performs journey by road in Delhi from and to an aerodrome, he shall be paid a minimum amount of one hundred and twenty rupees for each such journey.
A member is entitled to receive road mileage for the journey performed by road between the places not connected with the superfast/express/mail train. However, the members belonging to north-eastern States are entitled to road mileage from the usual place of residence to the nearest airport even if the places connected by superfast/express/mail train. Similarly a member whose usual place of residence is within the radius of 300 kms. from Delhi is entitled to receive road mileage for the journey performed by road even if the place is connected with superfast/express/mail train.
For the purpose of claiming travelling allowance for attending a session of Parliament or a sitting of a Committee, members are required to travel only after the issue of Summons for attending a session or after the issue of notice of meeting for attending the meeting of a Committee. Besides, a member is also entitled to receive travelling and daily allowances in respect of a journey performed by him/ her in the course of a tour outside India, undertaken in the discharge of his/her duties as such member. If, during a session of the House or a sitting of a Committee thereof, a member absents himself/herself for less than 15 days for visiting any place in India, he/she is entitled to receive the following travelling allowance:
(a) If the journey is performed by rail, an amount equal to one first class fare of each such journey, irrespective of the class in which the member actually travels.
The travelling allowance admissible in respect of such journey is limited to the total amount of daily allowances which would have been admissible to such member for the days of absence if he/she had not so remained absent.
(b) If the journey being a journey during a sitting of a committee is performed by air, an amount equal to one fare by air for each such journey but not more than once for visiting any place in India.
When a House of Parliament is adjourned for a fixed period during Budget Session, a member is entitled to receive travelling allowance for every journey performed by air for visiting any place in India during interval not exceeding seven days between two sittings of a Departmentally Related Standing Committee. But the total amount of travelling allowance, excluding air fare, is restricted to the amount of daily allowance which would have been admissible to him for the days of absence if he had not remained absent.
Every member has been given the facility of 32 air journeys during a year to be availed of during session/inter-session period with the spouse or any number of companions or relatives. The spouse/companion of a member may travel alone by air eight time to meet the member out of the 32 air journeys available to a member in a year. The newly elected member may also avail of the journey before the publication of Notification by Election Commission. Any journey performed by the spouse, companions or relatives shall be added in computing the limit of 32 air journeys. Further, the balance of unused air journeys shall be carried over to the following year. A member who performs air journey out of 32 air journeys to his usual place of residence or any place situated within his constituency during session period would be entitled to claim to and fro TA by air upto the airport nearest thereto and also TA for rail/road journeys, if any, beyond the airport. A member performing a journey by air out of 32 air journeys to any place other than the usual place of residence or any place situated within his constituency during session period would be entitled to only to and fro TA by air only upto the farthest point travelled by the direct route and also TA for the road mileage at Delhi and at the city of the said farthest point travelled by air, from and to airport to city at both places. A member performing a journey by air out of 32 air journeys during inter-session period for visiting any place in India would be entitled to only to and fro TA by air only upto the farthest point travelled by the direct route and also TA for the road mileage at Delhi and the city of the said farthest point travelled by air, from and to airport to city at both places. Every member who has his ordinary place of residence in the Ladakh area of the State of Jammu & Kashmir is entitled to an amount equal to the fare by air for each single journey by air performed by him from any airport in Ladakh to the airport in Delhi and back at any time. In addition to the air travel provided to a member, he is also entitled to an amount equal to the fare by air for each single journey by air performed by the spouse, if any, of the member or one person to accompany such member from any airport in Ladakh area to the airport in Delhi and back at any time.