New Delhi | Firing a fresh salvo at Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia over the chaos at the Delhi airport due to fog-related flight delays, Congress leader Shashi Tharoor on Thursday said it's a pity that since switching sides, Scindia has adopted the Modi government's "uncaring attitude" to the public.
Tharoor, who engaged in a war of words on X on Wednesday over the flight delays and the ensuing chaos at the airport, issued a series of six posts in a point-by-point rebuttal of Scindia's arguments and said the minister would be better served by shifting his focus from "my arm-chair and my diligent researchers to the agony of the passengers".
"Perhaps, then he would find time to fix the myriad incompetencies, absolute lack of preparation, and the glaring loopholes in his Ministry's functioning," Tharoor said.
Scindia had claimed on Wednesday that Tharoor is "lost in his esoteric world of thesaurus", and for him "data mining of selective press articles from the internet qualifies as "research".
The minister's caustic response came after Tharoor had alleged in a series of six posts on X that the chaos at the Delhi airport is a result of the "neglect and incompetence" of the Ministry of Civil Aviation which has failed to put in place modern facilities like at other international airports of the world.
The minister had also given a point-by-point rebuttal in an equal number of posts.
Responding to those posts by Scindia, Tharoor on Thursday said, "I don't need an 'esoteric thesaurus' to respond to @jm_scindia's selective rebuttal of my thread yesterday. Some 80,000 passengers had their flights cancelled on January 14th and 15th alone, with lakhs more suffering through incessant delays." It would be prudent for the minister to apologise to them for the agony and distress that his government has caused, enabled, and overseen rather than engage in "nugatory name-calling", Tharoor said.
"Mantri-ji, ahankaar chhodo, Janata se maafi maango! (Minister, put aside your arrogance and apologise to the people)," the Congress leader said.
Runway maintenance work is indeed critical for safety, however, maintenance for the one other CAT-III B runway at Delhi Airport only began in September 2023, Tharoor argued.
"Why wasn't maintenance started earlier, so it could be completed before the beginning of winter? The winter fog and 'pollution incidents' in Delhi are sadly an annual event that could and should have been planned for - which is exactly what your Ministry failed to do," he said.
Responding to Scindia's argument that the crane was being used for the construction of another critical infrastructure project - the Dwarka Expressway, Tharoor said, "Ah, your Ministry finally noticed the crane's 'impact on the runway'! Why did your Govt wait almost 2 weeks to take a decision on the crane that was obstructing the runway? The crane's violation of SOPs was flagged on 5th January, but no action was taken or announced until you tweeted this decision on 17th January!" Whatever ineffective show-cause notices the DCGA may be issuing, the reality is of acute pilot shortage, frequent flight diversions, and continuing agony for Indian travellers, Tharoor said.
"On December 29, 2023, 50 flights were diverted in the span of just 3 days because of a shortage of CAT-III trained pilots. That's 86% of Delhi-bound flights! And don't take my word for it, this was a statement by a DGCA official," he said.
"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 said and cited a media report.
The claims about doubling the number of airports is one of your most-repeated concoctions, he said.
"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," he argued.
"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 @RahulGandhi said during the #BharatJodoNyayYatra, it's clear the suffering of the people is not the suffering of this Government," Tharoor said in another post.
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, he said.
"I am not denying that there has been some growth. Nor am I blaming the Govt for the weather. I am pointing out that there are a number of evident shortcomings in the Govt's planning & its failure to take pro-active action on problems that could easily have been anticipated," he said.
"The Honourable Minister would be better served by shifting his focus from my arm-chair and my diligent researchers to the agony of the passengers. Perhaps, then he would find time to fix the myriad incompetencies, absolute lack of preparation, and the glaring loopholes in his Ministry's functioning," the former Union minister said.
Scindia was in the Congress for a long time and was considered a close associate of Rahul Gandhi. He quit the party following differences with its leadership and joined the BJP in 2020.