An Air India flight was delayed and three passengers reportedly deboarded to accommodate Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju last week. Rijiju was accompanied by Jammu and Kashmir Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh and the duo were to fly to Delhi from Leh on June 24, when the reported incident took place. When contacted, Rijiju denied the allegations and said he was not aware that three passengers had been deboarded to accommodate him and had he known this, he would have never appreciated the step of the Leh administration, which had booked him on the flight.
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Rijiju had gone to Leh in J&K by a Border Security Force (BSF) helicopter to attend Sindhu Darshan function. Due to bad weather the helicopter could not take off and last minute arrangements were made to fly Rijiju and the Deputy CM by an Air India flight AI 446, whose scheduled departure was at 11.40 am. Singh’s officer on special duty (OSD) Shakti Pathak was also on the flight.
Air India, however, advanced the flight timing and rescheduled it at 10.20 am since all the passengers had arrived at the airport and the boarding was complete, said a senior official.
“Due to bad weather the BSF Helicopter couldn’t fly, because of which we asked the Leh administration to get us the flight tickets for Air India. The administration arranged our tickets and we were never informed that to make way for our seats, three passengers have been deboarded. Had we been informed, we would have never appreciated this step of the administration,” said Rijiju.
To prove their claims, Rijiju’s office even sent copies of boarding passes of Singh and Pathak, which states that the boarding time was 11.15 am. The incident came to light after Times Now news channel aired an internal report filed by the airport manager at Leh airport saying the flight was delayed by more than an hour due to VIP movement of MoS (Home). Following the incident, Singh even wrote a letter to civil aviation minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju complaining about the entire episode.
Last month, the minister was in the middle of another controversy after The Indian Express reported his comments on the beef ban.