Implementing rules can be harmful to your career, especially when those whom you are asking to fall in line are the rich and the powerful. This is possibly one of the lessons Mr E.K. Bharat Bhushan, who was unceremoniously removed on Tuesday as Director-General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), has learnt. After threatening to cancel Kingfisher Airline’s licence in March, it is believed Mr Bhushan signed a letter on Monday evening saying that either the airline pays its employees in the next 15 days or its licence would be suspended. Mr Bhushan was given the marching orders on Tuesday afternoon.
Officially, his sudden transfer is being termed a routine matter, but dig deeper and a different picture emerges. During his 19-month tenure, Mr Bhushan stirred the hornet’s nest several times — from tracking down pilots flying with fake licences to ensuring the operations of flying clubs were properly audited. Those that did not meet requirements were shut down.
More significantly, it was also during his tenure that the financial surveillance and audit of airlines came into focus. Many in the industry feel it was eventually this move which proved to be the last straw. The financial focus on domestic airlines showed that Air India and Kingfisher were not up to scratch. Air India managed to get by with financial assistance from the Government and by implementing new rules.
The Kingfisher case was different. Since February this year, the airline’s top brass met the DGCA several times, trying to convince him that they had a sound turnaround plan. They also promised to pay back wages to employees. But all the promises came to nought. In fact, airport sources indicated that the day Mr Bhushan was removed, Kingfisher’s operations were disrupted, with pilots refusing to operate flights till they were paid back wages for five months.
Interestingly, Mr Bhushan was removed from his post a week after the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet had approved his appointment till the end of 2012.
In a late evening development, Kingfisher Airines clarified: “In response to various media queries, Kingfisher Airlines wishes to clarify that no communication or notice has been received from DGCA. Kingfisher is operating with the utmost safety under close supervision of DGCA. Transfer of Government officials is the sole prerogative of the Government. It is both highly incorrect and mischievous to even suggest that the transfer of DGCA was in any way connected to Kingfisher Airlines.”