What can be done when the fence starts eating the crop? This adage comes to mind when one reads about the Central Vigilance Commission approving action against eight senior officials of the Director-General of Civil Aviation (DGCA). That itself shows the seriousness of the charges against them. At least in two cases, the officials had influenced private airlines to appoint their daughters as co-pilots. What’s worse, they tinkered with the qualifications prescribed for pilots to facilitate jobs for their wards and relatives. Given the powers they wield, few private airlines will be bold enough to say ‘no’ to them.
These powers, which are regulatory in nature, are given to them to make flying safer. It goes without saying that a pilot is responsible for the lives of hundreds of people and assets worth hundreds of crores of rupees. Any person holding a pilot’s licence should be nothing but perfect in all parameters like alertness, navigation, instrument-handling, reflex action and personnel management. Any compromise on any of these qualities means a compromise on safety. The DGCA’s primary job is to ensure that flying is safe in all respects but by lowering the standards of recruitment of pilots, the officials have played with the lives of passengers. They paid scant regard to the objectives for which they were appointed.
What all this amounts to is the total failure of the regulatory authority insofar as civil aviation is concerned. The circumstances in which the DGCA chief Bharat Bhushan was removed from the post are not yet clear. The charges against the eight suggest that private airlines, particularly those that have been violating all norms of flying, could not have been in dread of the favour-seeking DGCA. It strengthens fears that they might have even played a role in his sudden removal. Whatever be the case, there is an urgent need to overhaul the DGCA and punish all those guilty of misusing their powers to restore its sanctity.