NEW DELHI: It seems that the Ministry of Civil Aviation is least willing to share its powers going by the formation of Air Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB) with apparently no discretionary powers.
Industry experts termed it a ‘hoax’ as the official appointed to head the bureau ranks lower in grade to a Joint Secretary, and not only reports to him but also a director-level officer in the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA).
Compared to similar bureaus in the US, Singapore, Australia, Europe and the UK, where the organisations are independent and the chief, in many cases, reports directly to the Prime Minister or an equivalent, the reporting hierarchy in the Indian bureau fails to make the cut.
“Ideally the chief of the accident investigation bureau must be equivalent to the Director General of Civil Aviation or higher. But here the bureau is being created for the heck of it and fool people into thinking that MoCA took the Mangalore crash seriously and brought about effective changes in the system,” an aviation expert told Express.
“The ministry hood-winked the ICAO, which mandates such norms, by picking an official from DGCA but had put him under the ministry’s officers,” he added.
Such a system defeats the purpose of corruption and hassle-free air accident investigations, which in many cases come under the influence of all and sundry.
“An investigator should be made immune to any kind of intimidation by anyone in the system. In the Y S Reddy chopper crash there were at least five agencies investigating, resulting in a chaos. The CID, appointed by the state; the centrally-appointed CBI and the DGCA representing MoCA, all independently investigated the case resulting in confusion,” a DGCA official said.
Ideally, the AAIB should have trained experts on board and have lab access to analyse evidence collected from the site with at least 20 technically qualified staff at the helm of affairs and enough financial support.
MoCA has created a one-man Army for the same.
Experts feel that only people with operational background in aviation be roped in to be part of the bureau instead of an open selection. “In India’s case, people being considered for the job are the same seeking jobs within the government set up and hence not independent of the ministry and the power corridors,” the official said.