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Not an era of bonded labour: 1-year notice period for pilots utterly silly

This would make India the first country to have such an absurd requirement for pilots

Anjuli Bhargava 

Representative image of pilots in a cockpit
Representative image of pilots in a cockpit

I have a suggestion for the Union Minister of Civil Aviation  

If indeed you are truly awake and listening, please give your safety regulator – the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) – a one-year notice period. 

If they fail to get their “brains” in order and come up with more cogent explanations for some of their more bizarre requirements, shut down this incompetent body full of corrupt – ahem  joint directors and set up a new clean regulator that focuses on safety and does the job it was intended for (lay readers may not follow the reference to joint director but anyone from the industry will know what I refer to).

I refer here to this utterly silly one-year notice period proposed for senior pilots and commanders and six months for co-pilots. 

Let be begin by stating here that I hold no brief for pilots whatsoever and am fully aware – after covering the sector for over 20 years – that they are anything but angels and are often driven only their own petty concerns – which are usually monetary in nature. 

Even when the airline they are working for seems on the verge of bankruptcy, I have seen this community narrowly focused only on itself and its own personal benefit. 

Over the years, I have found pilots who are both blissfully ignorant as to the shape of the carrier they represent and worse — singularly uncaring. 

So pilots  by and large – fail to make it to my list of most respected people in the industry. There are many happy exceptions who I am sure will be reading this piece.

Yet, there is simply no logic to defend what the DGCA has come up with. Why on earth should a pilot – any employee in any service sector – serve a one-year notice period when he wishes to move on? 

This is not an era of bonded labour! An employee who has quit cannot be asked to hang around for a whole year. He’s resigned and may well have lost interest in the job. Who wants a disgruntled employee in the pilot’s seat? I, for one, don’t.

Yoo hoo, are you listening Lalit Gupta, (former DGCA but still strangely active) and other bright sparks who came up with this idea and shoved it down the throat of the I know a lot of these ideas come at the behest of the airlines and their head honchos but someone has to differentiate between good ideas and bad ones.

To give you an idea of how absurd the logic is, read this:

“It has been observed that pilots are resigning without giving any notice period to airlines. In some cases, even groups of pilots resign together without notice and as a result, airlines are forced to cancel their flights at the last minute”.

The observation raises many questions. Which pilot in the recent past has resigned without giving any notice period whatsoever? Can they name these individuals? Which group of pilots has resigned and from which airline without any notice? When? How come no one else got to know about it? No hue and cry in the media? Which airline in India last cancelled a flight and announced "non-availability of pilot due to mass resignation” as the reason?

So, DGCA – as veteran Shakti Lumba – recently told me in an interview is truly in a time warp. Now, if we were sitting in 2004-05, I could have at least heard their arguments. I remember a time when a bunch of Sahara pilots quit and moved to Air India Express. 

So in 2004-05, if I recall right, some flights were cancelled and some schedules were disrupted but ever since then, I haven’t heard of pilots quitting their airline directly affecting passengers at any point. 

Of course, like all other companies, airlines also face HR issues from time and time and at times these are led by pilots or crew but no such dramatic disruption as DGCA and gang seem to have dreamt up.

Moreover, let me point out two other facts. One, at the time when several new smaller players – East West, Damania, Modiluft - took to the skies – way back in 1993-94 - Indian Airlines lost over a 100 pilots at one go. 

At that time, there was only Indian airlines and schedules were actually disrupted, but then it wasn’t in public interest to seek longer notices from pilots  since the ministry – and the then Minister Madhav Rao Scindia were keenly interested in seeing these new airlines take to the skies. So public interest is quite a broad term. What is in public interest at one time may no longer be in public interest at another.

Second, if I was Gajpatiraju or Sinha, I would ask DGCA to focus on the safety aspect as it is meant to and stop poking its long nose in stuff that is not its business. Train its staff better, find more alert inspectors – instead of hosting an army of pot-bellied, prosperous looking babus who sit on files for months – and look more closely at how safe our skies are. And while at it, I would also throw out some of the more corrupt officials who rule the roost in DGCA. I won’t name them but ask any pilot and they will be delighted to point them out. 

First Published: Tue, June 06 2017. 12:34 IST