Published On : Sat, Apr 2nd, 2016

VVIP Syndrome – well and truly alive at Nagpur Airport

Nagpur: Any Nagpurian who has traveled by air recently from Nagpur, or gone to receive or see off someone will vouch for how inconvenient and cumbersome it is to be diverted to the parking lot and carry your luggage from there to the Departures lounge. Or have a guest carry their stuff, including little babies, old parents from the Arrivals to the parking. There are no trolleys to be found nearby and when there are multiple flights arriving or departing, always a traffic jam in the completely ill planned parking lot. Cars can’t pass, drivers are honking, there are people everywhere, luggage strewn around and some curious stray dogs watching the whole ‘tamasha’.

Then you somehow manage to make your way to the Departures and you see n number of cars that are driving right till the entry gate and many more just parked on the road where there was once thoroughfare allowed. But, if you are an average, ordinary citizen you are not allowed to drive here at all any more, though you could earlier.

Then whose cars are all these we see? ( We had had a particularly grueling experience with two fast asleep 3 year olds, their luggage, their parents’ bags that had to be carried at a run since it took us over 10 minutes to find parking and get down from the car). And here we see so many ‘privileged folks’ being driven to the gate like before. Before, all those security threats I mean and airports supposedly becoming ‘high threat’ areas.

We inquired at the Airport Manager’s window and were told that ONLY Ministers’ cars and Class one Government officers cars were allowed. But wait a minute – who do I see coming out and driving away in their cars just then?

Nitin Raut, Satish Chaturvedi, a lot of their chamchas and then… Sameer Meghe with his entourage. Each in their personal vehicle – even the said chamchas.

But these are not even MLAs now, (except Sameer) forget being Ministers! Not only were their vehicles allowed in the restricted zone, they were walking right up to checking windows and Security gates! In fact they were strolling around as if, it was some Congress or BJP meeting venue, not the airport.

This scene made me halt at the barricades put up for us ‘commoners’ to see exactly who all were allowed in the sanctified and so called ‘secure’ zone. For one thing, the hapless fellow whose duty it was to manage the barricades is of the rank of a Naik Constable/ hawaldar. He said, till that point, it was their – meaning the police – jurisdiction, and beyond MIHAN or Airport Manager’s. Whatever they were told by the latter, they did.

In 30 minutes, I saw ANY car that had a government marking, state or central being passed through. Many cars had drivers and some underlings. “We have come to pick up our Saheb” they would say and drive on. (Often who they picked up were clearly the spoilt offspring of some officer – you could tell from their age.)

Some car drivers said, they were from the CM’s protocol or some Minister’s. Others said they were this MLA or that MLA’s (Kirshna Khopde, for instance) staff.

For every 3 cars that were stopped, one was allowed to drive in. Some had passes, or stickers, some had letters… and some had only their say so.

“What can we do madam?” Asked the Constable. “The other day one colleague of mine stopped a former Congress MLA and he almost got beaten up for it! We are small fry – if they complain about us, we will hear it from our bosses. Much easier to note the car numbers and let them go.”

Also, interesting point to note was that all these cars were the very same kind that Delhi High Court made strictures against today in the national capital where they are supposed to be kept off the roads for being polluting ‘status symbols’.

Diesel fueled SUVS – all costing above Rs. 20 lakhs or so.

Now just imagine the ‘security condition’ of the airport premises with such jumbos parked at will, and for unlimited time, just in front of the airport building. The possibilities for breach of security are endless. Anyone could steal/ hijack/ borrow a government vehicle and use it as a car bomb. The IDs of persons driving in are not checked – they could be anyone! A driver’s friend, an underling’s relative…possibilities are limitless.

All these anonymous sundries can drive in but not regular and legitimate travelers.

If you take more than the stipulated minimum time to drive out, you pay Rs. 35/ parking. (Of course the ‘VIP’ vehicles pay nothing). What facilities do you get in the premises? No toilets, no refreshment serving kiosks – except for a sad one at the end of the parking lot that at 8 had no tea or coffee even!

There isn’t even a water fountain for God’s sake! And in a hot and dry place like Nagpur.

I heard from a friend today that a lady passenger, just last week, gathered other passengers and created a stink about the filth at the airport and the lack of facilities.

But that is a matter apart, and we shall keep it for another story.

Right now, we beg to ask with this VIP syndrome flourishing, how safe and secure is the Nagpur airport?

Common people are suffering, but is anything being really achieved by way of sanitizing the place from terror attacks?

Hope someone takes notice before it is too late and check the ‘chalta hai’ – and we will bend over backwards to please the ‘netas’ – even has been ones – attitude.

Because if something untoward happens, it is the common as well as the VIPs whose blood will flow…

… Sunita Mudliyaar