Midnight drama at airport: Minister fights for VVIP status
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A week after the arrest of Babubhai Katara, officials of the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) had to face the rage of a Union minister when he was told to follow procedures as a regular passenger and undergo immigration and security checks.
Denied privileges he is not officially entitled to, Minister of State for External Affairs Anand Sharma got into an ugly confrontation with CISF officials last week.
The CISF Director General, R K Das, has written to the Cabinet Secretariat, Home Ministry and Civil Aviation Ministry detailing the sequence of events and asking the authorities to "suitably inform" the minister that he does not fall in any of the categories accorded ceremonial facilities and exemption from pre-embarkation checks.
Sharma was to take the Air-India flight to London on the night of April 20. The MEA, which handles protocol at IGIA's ceremonial lounge, arranged for Sharma's access even though he is not officially entitled to use this facility. But the MEA claims that since he was on an official tour to attend an international Hindi conference in New York, the usual convention has been to extend this "courtesy", given that the protocol department comes under him.
The problem started when the CISF personnel posted there insisted that he undergo pre-embarkation—immigration and security—checks just like any other passenger and reach the boarding gate through the normal channel.
Sharma is said to have insisted on using the special passage meant for VVIPs on the list of 23 persons/categories exempt from such checks. Frustrated by repeated denials, the DG's letter states, the Minister "flew into a rage" and spoke to the CISF Director General over the phone well past midnight.
While sources close to Sharma concede that he did speak to Das, they contest claims that he lost his cool and, in fact, say he remained "polite" through the incident.
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