Godmen pull political strings for special airport security privileges

Sonia’s office pushes Kanchi Shankaracharya case,Maken bats for Delhi baba

Written by Smita Aggarwal | New Delhi | Published:January 4, 2012 1:11 am

India’s godmen want special privileges at airports,and top politicians are willing to indulge them. The civil aviation ministry received requests last month to waive rules for at least three religious leaders — one wanted direct access to the tarmac,the others asked for exemption from physical security checks.

One of the requests was backed by Congress president Sonia Gandhi,another by Sports Minister Ajay Maken.

The Shankaracharya of Kanchi,Jayendra Saraswati,asked to be allowed to go up to the tarmac at airports across the country. The request was backed by a recommendation from Sonia’s office,and was granted the same day,a civil aviation ministry official said.

“The request was granted on medical grounds. Shankara-charya’s vehicle will be allowed until the tarmac following a security check,” the official said.

This exception is granted to select offices including that of the President and the Prime Minister,and to SPG protectees. However,exceptions have been made for Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati before.

Maken sought exemption from frisking for Baba Laxman Das Ji Maharaj of Jhandewalan,revered as “Kalyug ke Bhagwan”,saying no human being was allowed to touch him.

In a letter to the ministry written on December 19,Maken said,“No devotee or any other person can physically touch and even (have a) close audience of His Holiness… I therefore request… Baba Laxman Das Maharaj Ji… be exempted from frisking.”

The minister said his family has been associated with the Baba’s shrine for years,and said exemptions have been granted in “many others cases”.

The third request came from Bangalore-based Ramachandrapura Mutt,asking that physical checks be waived for a box of deities carried by the mutt’s guru.

Mutt CEO K G Dhar wrote to the ministry on December 26,“We have no objection to X-ray screening but no physical inspection… His Holiness has to open the small box by taking a bath… This may create embarrassment to our His Holiness.”

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