Just when questions are being raised over the inexplicable and dramatic exit of Director General of Civil Aviation EK Bharat Bhushan, it has emerged that the civil aviation ministry is mulling a dilution of the criteria for future appointments to the country’s aviation regulatory body.
It has already been pushing for Arun Misra as Bhushan’s successor with the Cabinet Committee on Appointments (ACC) though he does not have the required 12-year aviation experience to qualify. Sources told Firstpost that Misra’s name had been approved by the ACC but there was official confirmation of this.
Misra is expected to be granted a one-time extension (from the stringent norms) for a one-year term but the ministry has begun discussions on how to relax the norms to get a suitable candidate to head this critical safety and regulatory body.
Top ministry officials confirmed to Firstpost that the criteria for eligibility would be diluted as far as the experience in the civil aviation sector is concerned. “We will lower the number of years needed no one in the country today has the required 12-year experience.
We are also planning to make the DGCA function broadbased, which means non-aviation qualified professionals may also be considered for the post though they will have to be assisted by qualified technical staff. From an army general to a lawyer, anyone qualified enough should be eligible to become the DG”.
These sources said the new, relaxed norms should be ready in the next three to four months. The move for diluting norms to select a DGCA has raised eyebrows because of its timing and also since it comes just months before India is scheduled to be examined by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) on eight stringent aviation safety parameters.
The ICAO audit is slated for November and it largely assesses DGCA’s preparedness to handle aviation safety, as per international norms. In 2006, the last time this audit was conducted, India was found to be below the world average and this further led US regulator Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to downgrade India on safety parameters.
The officials quoted earlier said ICAO and FAA audits do not “depend on the presence or absence of one individual (referring to Bharat Bhushan)”. But they acknowledged that the DGCA is severely understaffed, lacks requisite technical manpower and will need to take a number of decisions to come on par with ICAO and FAA standards.
Meanwhile, the game of musical chairs continues in the ministry of civil aviation. Sources tell us that Bharat bhushan, the former DGCA who was abruptly sacked this Tuesday by Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh, will now also be asked to hand over charge as Additional Secretary and Financial Advisor to the ministry and move out completely. The ACC has already decided on this but a formal order is yet to reach the ministry.
Already, the ministry is slated to get a new civil aviation secretary since S Nasim Zaidi is scheduled to retire on 31 July. Besides, the interim DGCA, PN Sukul is expected to be posted as India’s ICAO representative after Misra comes back to replace him as full-time DGCA.