Union Minister of State for Home Affairs, Kiren Rijiju, has apologized to the passengers who were offloaded from a Leh-Delhi Air India flight to make way for him, another minister and an aide.
"I am ready to apologise to the off-loaded passengers. They deserve to be treated property," Mr Rijiju told NDTV, after a video of the incident was broadcast on national TV channels.
Rijiju had earlier claimed that the flight was not delayed, and that he was being blamed wrongly. But a report by the Indian Air Force said that there were instructions to delay the Air India flight on June 24, and the reason was this: "to accommodate a VIP (Mos MHA)". The three people offloaded were GV Srinivas, his wife GV Neelam and their son Dhruv Aryan. Their boarding passes were cancelled when the ministers arrived. Other passengers shouted slogans against the ministers, and some recorded the incident on their mobile phones which were later shown on TV.
They were offloaded from an Air India flight at Leh airport to accommodate Rijiju, Nirmal Singh, deputy chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, and an aide. This happened after the flight was delayed as the airline opted to wait for the ministers to arrive. The flight, scheduled for 10.20 am, managed to fly only by 11.12 am, according to the IAF report.
This is the second case of VIP culture severely inconveniencing the average person. On Monday, an Air India flight to New York was delayed by nearly an hour in Mumbai after Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis's secretary forgot to bring his new passport which had the US visa stamp on it. Fadnavis also refused to leave without his secretary. So the flight was delayed until the officer sent for his passport and it was delivered at the airport.
Former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan today demanded that Fadnavis apologise for causing inconvenience to over 200 passengers. "I have already demanded a full fledged probe by the Civil Aviation Ministry and sought action against whoever was responsible for the flight delay. Only a thorough inquiry can find whether Fadnavis is telling the truth or if the Air India officials are telling the truth," Chavan told PTI.
The Prime Minister's Office (PMO) has asked for an explanation from the Civil Aviation ministry on the two incidents, TV channels reported.