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Govt Wants Airlines To Give Special Treatment, Freebies To MPs

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In a controversial move, government has asked private airlines to give special privileges like lounge access to MPs, sparking a furore with political leaders and others denouncing it for not being in sync with the times.

Slamming the decision, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said it reflected "a special kind of disconnect with the reality", an apparent reference to demands for austerity from the political class.

"To be demanding such special privileges for "VIPs" in this political atmosphere takes a special kind of disconnect with the reality," he said on Twitter.

Supreme Court lawyer rpt lawyer Harish Salve took a jibe at MPs, saying, "What they want is special treatment without paying for it. Alas! Habits and mindsets don't change in a hurry."

"I believe the "courtesies" include jumping queues at the security. Might as well allow Lal Baatis (red beacon) on their bags also !!!", he said on Twitter.

He said the MPs seem to have missed seeing "Swiss president pushing his cart and standing in queue at the check".

"The irony is that there are a lot of MPs who live a life of simplicity. Travel by bus to Parliament. Use trains. Work for their constituents."

Congress MP Sanjay Nirupam said he does not support any such move. "I think it is better to travel like a common man.

Moreover, our MPs already get executive class tickets... I feel it is not necessary."

While the protocol to accord such special services to MPs have been in existence for over three years now, aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation, in a fresh directive to all airlines, has pointed out that the airports and airlines were "not adhering to the guidelines on protocol norms and courtesy to be extended to Members of Parliament."

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.

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.

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."

CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury said he does not see anything substantial in the order as they MPs already get "special handling".

Noting that a 2007 circular of Civil Aviation Ministry providing the guidelines and instructions in this regard, had only listed Air India, DOGMA chief Prabhat Kumar also advised the Ministry "to review the order on protocol norms and courtesy for the Members of Parliament and include the names of other airlines companies including LCC (low-cost carriers)".

The DGCA directive came after Parliament's 'Committee on Violation of Protocol Norms and Contemptuous Behaviour of government officers with member(s) of Lok Sabha', which is part of the Privileges Committee, had raised the issue with the Ministry late last year.

The committee had said that "airports and airlines are not adhering to the guidelines on protocol norms and courtesy to be extended to the members of Parliament".