CIC pulls up the national airline on issue of providing bigger aircraft for accommodating family of former aviation minister
The Air India story is a spectacular example of ruining a public enterprise. Stories abound about how government functionaries themselves have abused its services. Now, a Central Information Commission (CIC) directive may reveal who enjoy VIP services at the cost of public money.
In a 12th December 2011 ruling, the CIC has directed Air India to disclose the names of passengers and other details of bigger carriers that replaced the scheduled ones; reportedly for flying VIPs from Bangalore to Male and back in April 2010.
RTI activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal had filed a petition in March 2011 asking for the details of Bangalore-Male flight Airbus A-320 on 25 April 2010, and also on 28 April 2010 for Male-Bangalore. An A-320, a larger aircraft, replaced scheduled aircraft on A-319 and IC-966 flights, respectively, on the two dates. Allegedly, the change was made just so that the family of former civil aviation minister Praful Patel could fly to Maldives and back.
On the scheduled flights, seven of the eight available seats were already booked. Mr Patel’s daughter, Avni Deshpande and her in-laws wanted to fly to the Maldives on 25 April 2010, but the whole party could not be accommodated. So, Mr Patel insisted on a bigger Airbus plane with 20 business class and 125 economy class seats.
Smaller Airbuses are used on the Bangalore-Male route because the load factor is not high. But in order to accommodate the Deshpandes, the larger Airbus flew with 53 vacant seats, and returned with 57 vacant seats. On 28 April 2010 when the family returned, the Male-bound flight had 20 vacant seats, and on its way back to Bangalore, 60 seats were vacant.
“I came to know about this last year from a journalist who wrote the story. I filed a query, but the CPIO refused to give me information. He clubbed queries together and said that the information sought is exempt from disclosure. I had asked for related documents and file notings related to Air India’s decision, even that was not provided,” said Mr Agrawal.
The Air India CPIO (chief public information officer) gave an unsatisfactory reply to Mr Agrawal’s queries, simply replying that the changes were made due to “commercial requirements depending on the booked load/demand and also due to operational/engineering requirements.” About Air India’s decision to change the carrier, he said that the decision to switch aircrafts was taken by Central Coordination Cell and the decision was intimated telephonically to the concerned personnel. He refused to give out any information, citing commercial interests.
When Mr Agrawal approached the CIC, the commission directed the CPIO to disclose the names of the persons responsible for the decision, the names and designations of the officials to whom the decision was communicated, and particulars of the business class passengers on those flights. The ruling said, “The CPIO has denied the information on the grounds that the company, keeping in view its commercial interests follows the practice of not disclosing the travel particulars of its valued passengers which are personal, too. However, in view of the facts and circumstances of the present case, the commission deems it fit and appropriate in public interest to direct the CPIO to provide the list of business class passengers as requested by the appellant.”
Despite the CIC directive that all information, including the file notings be provided to Mr Agrawal within 10 days of receipt of the order, the activist has not got any details.
It is an open secret that public laws do not apply to people who make them. No wonder, a large part of Air India’s road to ruin is paved with such VIP ‘requests’, which has cost a fortune to the exchequer, and the country one of its symbols of pride.
The output comprised 31.58 mmcmd from the D1 and D3 gas fields and 6.85 mmcmd from the MA oilfield.
Reliance Industries has reported natural gas output from its eastern offshore KG-D6 fields dipping below 39 million cubic meters a day as it shut five wells because of high water ingress.
Natural gas production from the Dhirubhai-1 and 3 gas fields and the MA oilfield in Block KG-DWN-98/3, or KG-D6, in the Krishna-Godavari Basin of the Bay of Bengal was 38.43 mmcmd in the week ended December 25, according to a status report filed by the company with the Oil Ministry here. The output comprised 31.58 mmcmd from the D1 and D3 gas fields and 6.85 mmcmd from the MA oilfield. The KG-D6 production is lower than 61.5 mmscmd rate achieved in March, 2010, as a drop in pressure in the wells and increased water ingress has led to a lower per-well gas output.
The report said of the 18 wells drilled, completed and put on production in the D1 and D3 fields, five wells— A2, A10, B1, B2 and B13— were kept closed due to high water cut/sanding issues.
The output from KG-D6 is short of the 70.39 mmscmd-level (61.88 mmscmd from D1 and D3 and 8.5 mmscmd from the MA field) envisaged by now as per the field development plan approved in 2006. While RIL holds 60% interest in KG-D6, UK's BP Plc has 30% and Niko Resources of Canada the remaining 10%. RIL started natural gas production from the KG-D6 fields in April 1, 2009, with output of about 30 mmcmd. The MA oilfield, where one of the five oil wells had been shut due to water loading, produced about 12,623 barrels of crude oil per day in the week ending December 25. In addition, 1,672 barrels of condensate are produced from the field every day.
The report said 15.03 mmcmd of the gas output was sold to fertiliser plants and 20.18 mmcmd to power plants. The remaining 3.22 mmcmd was consumed by other sectors, including compressors and internal use of the East-West pipeline that transports gas from the East Coast to consumption centres in the West. RIL projected an output of 38.50 mmcmd of gas in January.
As per the status report, out of the 22 wells planned in in Phase-I of D1 and D3 field development, 18 wells have been drilled and completed so far. Of these, 13 wells were put on production, while five wells were kept closed due to high water cut and sanding issues. The field development plan envisages drilling of an additional 9 wells by March 2012.
In the late afternoon, Reliance Industries was trading at around Rs707.30 per share on the Bombay Stock Exchange, 1.15% up from the previous close.
“Motor sport is always considered to be niche in India. We want to change this production with this new Etios Motor Racing,” Toyota Kirloskar deputy managing director (marketing), Sandeep Singh said.
Japanese auto giant Toyota Motor Corporation will start production of its sedan Etios and hatchback Liva — the two models that were first launched in India — in Brazil from 2013.
“We are going to start the first production outside India from next year. It will be for the Latin American nation and the production base would be Brazil,” Toyota Motor Asia-Pacific President, Mr Hiroji Onishi, said at the 11th Auto Expo here.
He, however, did not share details such as production volume and the size of the investment for the project.
“Before going for production outside India, we will start exporting Etios and Liva to South Africa from March this year. We would like to go overseas for establishing the products,” Mr Onishi said.
The company today announced starting its first motor race in India in 2013.
“Motor sport is always considered to be niche in India. We want to change this production with this new Etios Motor Racing,” Toyota Kirloskar Deputy Managing Director (Marketing), Mr Sandeep Singh, said.
Before the final race, the company will conduct preliminary round for short-listing the drivers at 12 locations in 13 cities across the country