Millennium Post

Corporate lobbies get DGCA chief sacked

In a surprising move, the civil aviation minister Ajit Singh removed Bharat Bhushan, a senior bureaucrat, from the post of the chief of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on Tuesday. Bhushan had been given extension in this position till December only two days ago by the Prime Minister's Office (PMO). Singh's sudden move has rattled the entire civil aviation circuit. Bhushan, an IAS officer of the 1979 batch from the Kerala cadre had taken over from Syed Nasim Ahmad Zaidi in December 2010 as the DGCA chief.

Reliable sources say that as the DGCA chief Bhushan had issued a directive to Kingfisher Airlines on Monday saying that the salaries of the pilots needed to be paid in the next 15 days or the DGCA would be forced to close down the airline. It is reliably learnt that Bhushan's stand of not aiding private airlines had upset many and they had influenced the civil aviation minister to oust him.

After Bhushan, a joint secretary Prashant Narain Sukul has been given additional charge to look after the activities of the DGCA for the time being. When various private airlines, like Indigo, Spice, Jet and other low-cost airlines had started charging exorbitant fares by taking advantage of the pilots' strike in Air India and Kingfisher's disruption of services, DGCA had recommended a reduction in fares up to 25 per cent.

The corporate lobbies were also up in arms against Bhushan, since he stopped the exorbitant loot from the passengers. Almost a year ago, Bhushan had initiated a massive investigation and cracked down against fake pilots who were getting pilots' licenses without fulfilling the required criteria through the private flying schools, which were aided mostly by politicians. These cases were handed over to police authorities and more than 30 fake pilots, touts and even a few DGCA officials were arrested. He also started online examination for pilots and tried to remove corruption in the department.

Interestingly, the corporate lobbies are also working very hard to put a favourable secretary in the civil aviation ministry since the incumbent Naseem Zaidi is retiring soon. GMR is lobbying hard for K M Srivastava and Indigo is lobbying for another officer, but the PMO has made it clear that no  IAS officer will be appointed at this post who has earlier served in this ministry in any capacity.

Interestingly, R K Singh, a former joint secretary of the civil aviation ministry, who use to handle Air India affairs on behalf of the ministry, has joined Rahul Bhatia's Indigo group as a consultant, which indicates a conflict of interest. Similarly, many former ministry officials are closely working with Jet Airways and other private airlines.

Recently the PMO also intervened in removing an official, Anil Srivastava, who was acting as the  chairperson and managing director of the state-owned Pawan Hans Helicopters Ltd (PHHL). He was also a joint director-general at the DGCA. The PMO felt that being a regulator he could not hold the position of a PSU chief. It has now appointed another joint secretary Ashok Kumar in that position.

The sources say that another IAS officer Arun Mishra is all set to take charge as director general of the DGCA after Bhushan's exit, while Shukul will move to Canada.
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