In a bizarre spell of bragging today, civil aviation minister A. Gajapathi Raju said that he regularly flouts airline strictures by carrying matchboxes inside planes since he is never “frisked" because of his government position.
Before becoming the union minister, Raju said, he lost many matchboxes and lighters in security checks.
"How is a matchbox a threat," he said. "My own lighters and matchboxes kept getting confiscated. As civil aviation minister, I’m not being patted down so its going in my pocket."
Raju's comments reflect the pervasive culture of arrogance and entitlement that corrodes the political class and bureaucracy in India. This VIP culture is increasingly being attacked by Indians who no longer condone preferential treatment.
Ridiculing the prohibition, Raju said that a matchbox can’t be used to hijack a plane. "What is wrong with carrying a matchbox on board,” he said. “I haven’t come across any incident worldwide where a matchbox had led to any threat.”
Raju was giving a talk on on how to make security meaningful without it being an obstruction to economic growth.
Kapil Kaul, CEO of the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation in South Asia, told HuffPost India that this "innocent comment" from the aviation minister "will send a wrong message regarding safety."