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Wednesday, October 14, 1998
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Civil aviation loses focus

  The Indian civil aviation policy is a shambles. The main reason is that it has lost its focus — service to passengers and national interests of a strong civilian arm for the country’s defence.

Instead of being guided by expert opinion, over the years whimsical and arbitrary decisions by politicians, whose knowledge of aviation may be said to be restricted to the ability of distinguishing between a Boeing and a bullock cart, have cost the country dear.

The Civil Aviation Ministry, whose bureaucrats appear to have specialised in backseat driving to enjoy power without accountability, has been the graveyard of professionalism. Some Indian Airlines and Air-India chief executives have been virtually driven out when they tried to run the airlines in a professional manner.

The unions of state-owned airlines have shown negligible consideration to passenger interests by disrupting flights, and have also to share the blame for the current mess.

The much touted “open skies” policy had turned out to be a “cloudy sky” policy to destroy competition, though competition is in the interest of the travelling public, airline employees, and the emergence of a strong airline industry.

Civil aviation can be a leading sector of the economy if new airlines are allowed to come in, all carriers are allowed to operate under a well-defined set of rules, and 76 per cent of IAC and Air-India shares are sold to the public. Under professional management, unhampered by political whims and bureaucratic interference, IAC and Air-India, a one-time world class airline build up by aviation pioneer J.R.D. Tata, can respond to passenger needs and emerge as reputed carriers.

Unfortunately the spirit of Mohammed Bin Tughlak seems to be dancing with joy in the corridors of the Civil Aviation Ministry.


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Another blow to pensioners

The rules governing the disposal of official work clearly lay down that every executive order issued on behalf of a state government shall be expressed to be taken in the name of the Governor and signed by a Secretary, Additional Secretary, Joint Secretary, Deputy Secretary, or Under Secretary.

One is surprised on seeing that three of four orders issued by the Punjab Government in August and September with regard to the revision of pension have been signed not by a secretary-level officer but by an “Officer on Special Duty (Litigation)”. Everybody working in the Punjab Civil Secretariat knows that no such officer was ever authorised by the government to issue orders on its behalf.

It is very likely that further delay may be caused in the final payment of their dues to the retirees on this account. If so, great hardship would be felt by them in this month of festivals. In addition, the retirees would be fully justified in cursing the government for being so inefficient!


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Courts: unjustified demand

Mr Shyam Khurana in his letter (October 1) states that when the offices of the Central government and those of Punjab and Haryana observe a five-day week, why is the practice not followed in the lower courts (where a six-day week is observed)?

Well, the letter writer should not have forgotten that the offices of the central government and those of Punjab and Haryana function for eight hours a day (9 a.m. to 5 p.m.) while the lower courts remain open for six hours a day (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.) for nine months (August 1 to April 30) and for six-and-a-half hours (7 a.m. to 1.30 p.m.) during the remaining part of the year.

Moreover, lower courts remain closed for summer and winter vacations (civil courts for about five weeks and criminal courts for about three weeks). No such vacation is observed in government offices.

So, I don’t think the demand for a five-day week system in the lower courts on the above grounds is justified.


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Why this "pay cut"

When the 26-day-long strike by university and college teachers was called off, an explicit understanding with the HRD Ministry was arrived at that no punitive action — "pay cut" or treating it as a case of being "absent from duty" — would be taken against the striking teachers, and all the state governments would be requested to honour this commitment. This implied that the salary for the strike period would be released and the teachers, on their part, would see to it that the loss of studies was compensated by taking extra classes, or curtailing the schedule for the holidays.

But the Haryana government seems to have shown scant regard to the compromise between the teachers and the Central government. The salary of the teachers for August and September stands withheld on account of the indecisiveness of the government in this regard. One can imagine the plight of the salaried persons. During this period of the year, owing to Dasehra and Divali, one has to incur an extra expenditure.


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Prices and the BJP

The BJP government at the Centre, by changing guards (the Chief Minister of Delhi) in Delhi, has tried to deviate the attention of the masses from the real and burning issue of sky-rocketing prices. By doing so, it has tried to cheat the masses who voted for the BJP.

Those who voted for the BJP did so in response to its plea that let the BJP ride power and see what better it does for the masses. But the experience so far has been bitter. The prices of all the edible oils, vegetables and other essential commodities have gone up alarmingly.



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