Ministers, HODs plant unauthorised ‘Liaison Officers’ at Srinagar airport
Ahmed Ali Fayyaz
_______SRINAGAR, Dec 13: Purely for their personal comfort and convenience, different Ministers, Heads of Departments and government organisations have planted a platoon of unauthorised ‘Liaison Officers’ in flagrant violation of the security guidelines at the country’s most sensitive airport in Srinagar.
STATE TIMES learned from well-placed official sources said that a number of Ministers, bureaucrats, HoDs and government organisations and undertakings have picked up different select officers functioning under their administrative control and planted them inside the terminal building of Srinagar Airport only to facilitate their own and their families’ arrival and departure besides comfortable passage to and from the airport.
Army, Jammu and Kashmir Bank, Jammu and Kashmir High Court, Northern Railways, Department of Tourism and now also Forest Department are among the departments and organisations who have ‘informally’ posted so-called Liaison Officers without orders and proper authorisation at Srinagar airport.
Sources revealed that the task of these ‘Liaison Officers’ was limited to arranging tickets and ‘VIP seats’, collection of boarding passes, hassle-free entry and passage through security checkpoints, scanning of luggage besides ensuring sitting in the cosy VIP lounges and collection and carriage of luggage of their senior officers, bureaucrats and Ministers and their families. Some of them are seen even helping in the catering services.
According to the officials, providing all these facilities besides protocol to the persons mentioned in the Order of Precedence and Protocol, is the job of the SSP Anti-hijacking who has adequate staff at his command and disposal. Even the chain of coordination breaks because of multiple lateral interventions.
Notwithstanding this ‘extracurricular’ arrangement, two judges of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court landed in an embarrassing situation recently when their car, on way to Srinagar airport, was stopped by checking by Police outside Humahama gate. Budgam Police as well as the anti-hijacking staff and CRPF maintained that they had no information of the two senior High Court judges’ passage to the airport. Later, the ‘liaison officer’, who holds the rank of a Chief Judicial Magistrate, made it clear that he had not passed on information of the two the judges’ passage to the airport authorities as he had been advised to keep their visit a closely-guarded secret.
All the so-called liaison officers, including a judge, keep on shuttling and roaming between one place to another as none of them, with the exception of the Tourism Department’s ‘Liaison Officer’, has a room or a chair to sit. “Since there’s no provision for such deployment, we can’t provide to them rooms and chairs. We see them in pitiable conditions during bad weather but we are helpless”, SSP Anti-hijacking Manzoor Ahmad Dalal said. He asserted that only the Department of Tourism had the sitting and waiting facilities inside the Terminal Building. He, however, insisted that the ‘Liaison Officers’ “do not enter the Terminal Building” and they coordinate all the arrangements from outside.
Well-placed sources nevertheless maintained that all the ‘Liaison Officers’ are “regularly seen escorting the officers, bureaucrats and Ministers of their respective departments and organisations within the Terminal Building including in spaces beyond the Security check-in points. “Every single movement is properly recorded on our CCTVs”, said an official. He disclosed that even the officials and their family members, not entitled to any special treatment, are seen seated inside the VIP Lounges.
Latest inclusion is an officer of the rank of Assistant Conservator of Forest who escorts and sees off Forest Minister Bali Bhagat and also makes all arrangements related to his visit and comfortable passage. Forest Department’s records do not contain any formal order to such a deputation. Remarkably, Forest Department has been suffering the worst human resource deficit as the State Government has made only one recruit of ACFs (in 2011) after 1984. While as more than 70% of the substantive posts of gazetted officers in Forest and its related departments are held by “incharge” officials for years in brazen violation of Supreme Court of India directions, just 40 ACFS and 9 Range Officers (Grade-I) were appointed in 2011. Unauthorised deployment of the ACF has made the department poorer by another officer.
“If the Ministers and bureaucrats want to formalise this system of protocol for themselves and their families, they must amend the laws and rules and create the posts of Liaison Officers in a proper manner. As of now, this system is completely illegal and unauthorised”, said a bureaucratic source in General Administration Department (GAD). He admitted on condition of anonymity that the working of several departments was suffering due to unauthorised deployments of the officers.