Published On : Tue, Aug 16th, 2016

Is VIP culture making Nagpur Airport vulnerable and unsafe?

IMG_20160813_074903Nagpur: If you have ever been to the Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar International Airport, and you are allowed to drive all the way to the Departure and Arrival lobbies when there is no ‘threat perception’, you would hav noticed that there is a lane cordoned off right in front of the airport building where no cars are allowed. This is supposed to be a strictly enforced rule.

As the Airport Director explained to us in an exclusive interview some time ago, this lane is for ’emergencies’.

If a plane has a problematic landing – as happened in Dubai recently – and passengers are injured; or there is a terrorist strike, or a fire or any such disturbing incidence, that lane is kept vacant for ambulances, fire brigade tenders, police cars etc. for quick action. Injured people may have to be evacuated to hospitals, fire tenders deployed for dousing fires and if there is traffic in front such response will become more chaotic.

“Airports the world over as soft targets and most vulnerable. It is the most used mode of international travel and the rich, powerful and famous people use it more often. Most international airports have multiple flights landing and taking off at short intervals. All these factors add to the security threat of airports. We always have to be in high alert mode” explained the Director.

The Nagpur airport might not have gone international in right earnest yet, but there still are a large number of domestic flights coming in daily. Like 7.30 a.m. onwards in the morning there are 2-3 flights from Mumbai, one flight from Delhi and one from Banglore coming in quick succession. There is similar scene in the evenings. Nagpur being Nagpur, for all the passengers arriving there are numerous friends and relatives who come to receive and see off travelers, so the airport is quite crowded – an additional incentive for potential ‘trouble makers’. So it is very essential that the emergency lane is maintained as per the rules for which it was set aside.

But alas! The VIPs of Nagpur do not see this obvious point at all, and flout this rule with impunity. Or rather, they suffer from the delusion that this emergency lane is actually a VIP only lane! So at Nagpur, you always find this lane totally blocked by their personal SUVs, their lal-batti cars and the many police escort cars they are entitled to.

This was the scene at the airport at 7 am.  when the undersigned went to receive some guests from Banglore. It being 13th August, just two days short of Independence Day a state of ‘high alert and high security’ was in place and cars of all ordinary mortals were diverted straight to the parking lot instead of being allowed to drive in close the Departure or Arrival points.

Understanding that this is for the sake of security, people generally co operate. Even if they have aged people needing wheel chairs for boarding the plane, or sick people going for treatment or small babes in arms they CANNOT drive till the gates.

VIPs on the other hand have no restrictions at any time and their vehicles have free access to all areas. One can understand that, even accept it, but why do they need to use the emergency lane to park their vehicles while waiting for the VIP to arrive?

Yesterday a Union Minister was expected. Almost an hour before his arrival time from Delhi, the emergency lane was totally blocked by his personal black SUV, one escort car and 3-4 police vans. When his plane landed, the cars drove right to the gate where people were exiting so bona fide passengers had to walk around the cars to get to the parking lot.

When he exited the airport, he was surrounded by a throng of people who walked with him till his car. They all crowded into the emergency area too.

“Today it is just people. Sometime, when something significant has happened in the VIP’s life, there is Gulal, flower petals, garlands, bouquets etc. too. After the VIP has left, they leave a debris at the venue creating a nuisance for other travelers” said an irate lady who had come to receive her daughter.

We hope and aspire to make Nagpur a ‘smart city’.

Can we achieve this goal if our own VIPs, who should set an example, flout rules at every turn? Specially rules that are meant for the safety of all present.

The first thing Nagpur expects is some ‘smartness’ and responsibility from its leaders.

Is that too much to ask for?

“We have given up on Nagpur VIPs understanding this and respecting the rule” rued a senior executive of Nagpur Airport.

Sunita Mudliyar ( Associate Editor )