MINISTERS AND bureaucrats who do not want to take the national carrier Air India for official travel — ostensibly for compelling reasons — may no longer have to approach the Ministry of Civil Aviation for exemption. Their own departments will soon be empowered to allow the use of any other airline for domestic and international travel.
With requests for such exemptions flooding his ministry’s permission cell, Aviation Secretary R N Choubey has proposed to the finance ministry that these cases be handled and cleared by the department to which the minister or the bureaucrat belongs. He wants the financial advisors attached with various departments or ministries to be “delegated the power to accord the permission” since these advisors are appointed by the finance ministry.
In July 2009, the finance ministry issued the order asking all ministers and bureaucrats to travel only by the national carrier for official tours. Sources said the move — aimed to help save the loss-making airline — resulted in most ministers and senior bureaucrats filing exemption requests, citing last-minute travel approvals, non-connectivity of Air India to the last mile or timing of their meetings.
While bureaucrats complained of having to take detours or spending layover time at airports just to catch Air India, most ministers preferred using private airlines despite an AI flight being available around the same time.
On the other hand, the aviation ministry received flak for taking more than the prescribed one week to cross-examine the reasons for such exemptions. In many cases, it was forced to grant post facto sanction as applications were submitted after the date of travel.
However, Choubey has suggested that the current practice of submitting the one-page proforma and the accompanying annexures to justify taking another airline be continued with the applications submitted to the financial advisors. All such exemptions would subsequently be submitted to his ministry for ratification.