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"Pity, since switching sides you have...": Tharoor fires fresh salvo at Scindia amid flight chaos

New Delhi: Amid a war of words over the chaotic scenes at the Delhi airport over bulk flight delays and cancellations due to the prevailing fog, Congress MP Shashi Tharoor fired a fresh salvo at Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia, claiming that he has adopted the 'uncaring attitude' of the 'Modi government' since changing his political stripes.
Delhi's Indira Gandhi International (IGI) airport plunged into chaos on Monday, as dense fog disrupted flight operations, leaving hundreds of passengers stranded for hours.
Taking to his official handle on social media platform X, Tharoor, while acknowledging the strides in the aviation sector, posted, "My dear JM_Scindia, it's a pity that since switching sides you have adopted the Modi Government's uncaring attitude to the public. As Rahul Gandhi said during the #BharatJodoNyayYatra, it's clear the suffering of the people is not the suffering of this Government. Crores worth of economic value lost, lakhs of lives disrupted, and thousands of people unable to go about their daily lives during this festive season--and all the Minister can do is to engage in name-calling."
"I am not denying that there has been some growth. Nor am I blaming the government for the weather. I am pointing out that there are several evident shortcomings in the Govt's planning & its failure to take proactive action on problems that could easily have been anticipated," the Thiruvananthapuram MP added.
Advising the Civil Aviation Minister to shift his focus "from my arm-chair and my diligent researchers to the agony of the passengers", Tharoor added, "Perhaps, then he would find time to fix the myriad in competencies, absolute lack of preparation, and the glaring loopholes in his Ministry's functioning."
In another post on X, Tharoor said the claims made by the Union Minister on the country's aviation sector were 'completely misdirected' and an 'obfuscation'.
"This is complete misdirection and obfuscation. In 2014, India had 6-7 major airlines, none of which had even 1/3rd market share. Today, there are just two companies with over 90% of the market. Further, under the BJP government, thousands of crores have been wasted on the failed UDAN scheme. After 7 years, out of 493 subsidised routes, only 225 (about 47%) are still surviving. This is not even considering the 403 other routes that were awarded but could not even begin operations," Tharoor posted from his X handle.
Taking a dig at the Centre, he claimed that the "doubling of the number of airports is one of your most repeated concoctions".
"In 2014, the Airports Authority of India annual report shows that there were already 125 airports in India. In 10 years, you have been able to add just 20 airports. In comparison, from 2004 to 2014, the UPA added 35 operational airports," Tharoor claimed.
On Wednesday, Tharoor labelled the prevailing situation as a "ModiGovt-made disaster", alleging that it was a result of the Ministry of Civil Aviation's "neglect and incompetence".
Scindia countered Tharoor's criticism, saying, "It is for someone who is lost in his esoteric world of thesaurus that data mining of selective press articles from the internet qualifies as research".
He highlighted the crane operation's impact, revealing it would be allowed only on non-fog days. "Runway maintenance work is a critical safety element for aviation operations, and any compromise with runway conditions directly jeopardizes passenger safety," Scindia said.
"As a result, the maintenance was taken on top priority to be completed by December 15 before the onset of the fog season. However, due to pollution incidents, and enforcement of GRAP-IV in Delhi, the recarpeting got delayed, resulting in a delay of one month in its commissioning. The revamped RWY is getting operational this week," he asserted.
Further responding to Tharoor's claims on trained pilots, accusing the Ministry of Civil Aviation and DGCA of failing to ensure airlines have trained pilots, Scidina pointed out a significant increase in CAT-II/CAT-III trained pilots over the years.
While countering his claims, Scindia said, "On sufficiently trained pilots, your claim is incorrect and baseless, as usual! As compared to only 2416 CAT II/CAT III trained pilots in 2014, today we have 6191 CAT II/CAT III trained pilots which is a jump of 2.5 times in the last 9 years."
"Further, in preparation for the fog season of 2023-24, due to our efforts, the number of CAT II/CAT III trained pilots have grown by 16 per cent in the last three months alone from 5332 to 6191," Scindia said.
"Regarding CAT III operations, Scindia explained the dependence on runway, aircraft, and pilot capabilities. He compared the Delhi Airport's CAT III capability to JFK airport in the USA, emphasizing the differences in minima," he added.
Earlier, Delhi experienced unprecedented fog, with the visibility dropping to 'zero' and hampering flight movement to and from the IGI airport on Monday.
Over 600 flights, including both domestic and international, were affected, according to airport officials.

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