NEW DELHI -- We have been hearing with much fanfare that Congress president Sonia Gandhi's son-in-law Robert Vadra's name will no longer appear on the no-frisking list that appears in Indian airports, a monument to India's feudalistic VIP culture.
Vadra was the only person to be on that list by name, making the privilege of marrying into the Nehru-Gandhi family conspicuous by display in all of India's civilian airports. All the other exemptions were by office--Prime Minister of India, High Court Chief Justices, and so on.
It has been a long-standing demand that Vadra's name should be struck off the list. The demand became louder after his name became entangled in dubious deals relating to land and property. Congress supporters saw it as a matter of convenience--his spouse, mother-in-law and brother-in-law are protectees of the Special Protection Group--the elite force that secures the persons of India's prime ministers and their families. So when he is travelling with them, it will be inconvenient that he alone needs to be frisked. Congress' rivals saw this exemption as blatant nepotism and abuse of privilege.
Vadra was exempt from security pat-downs while he travelled with any of his family members.
A security board in an Indian airport which had Vadra on the 'no-frisking' list.
Now, his name has been struck off this list following an order on 16 September from the union government to this effect. Vadra had mocked the present government two days before this order came out, claiming that he would strike off his name from the list at every Indian airport since the government had not done so itself.
After the government responded by taking his name off the list, Vadra posted on his social networking page that he welcomed the move. "I appreciate that my name will not appear in the VVIP list anymore. I hope this is a dead issue now and will not be used against me. My Best wishes."
But a new notification issued just a day prior to that means effectively nothing will change for Mr Vadra.
The Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) issued a notification on September 15, saying all accompanying spouses of the VVIPs shall be “exempted from pre-embarkation checks at all civil airports in the country”, reported The Hindustan Times.
This means that whenever Vadra travels with his wife, he will not be frisked.
“The new list, like the previous one, has SPG protectees, including Priyanka Gandhi. So, while travelling with her, Vadra won’t have to queue up at airports and get frisked,” an aviation ministry official told HT.
So despite all the noise, the only difference for Vadra is this--if he is travelling with Rahul Gandhi or Sonia Gandhi without Priyanka Gandhi present, he will get frisked. Else, it's business as usual.