Kerbside parking of VIP vehicles at the Kolkata airport is back.
As air travel picks up pace after a lull for around two years because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the old problem has resurfaced once again.
The menace that had taken a back seat with travel restrictions in place because of the pandemic can be seen again as passengers at the airport are back and cars belonging to senior functionaries of various government officials and departments are parked right in front of the airport’s terminal violating the rules.
The Telegraph spent several hours at the airport and spotted a number of such vehicles — some of which had beacon lights attached on the roofs and others fitted with boards announcing that they belonged to the government — parked on the kerb right outside the terminal building .
The cars were spotted both at the arrival as well as the departure level.
In front of gate 3A in the arrival level, several vehicles, some of which had “Police” as well as “Government of India” boards affixed on the windshield were parked for at least two hours.
An SUV with a police sticker parked in front of a No-Parking sign.
One car with a “Government of West Bengal” sticker on it was parked right in front of a signboard that read: “Fine Rs 3,000 beyond three minutes dwell time and seven minutes running time”.
“Dwell time” refers to how long a vehicle can remain in front of the terminal building without paying any fee and “running time” denotes the time taken to travel to the terminal from the gates and back.
According to airport sources, the total time a car spends on the airport premises is taken into account because there is no mechanism to ascertain the “dwell time” and the “running time” separately.
Vehicles are allowed to stay on the airport premises for 10 minutes. If any car stays for a longer period, marshals deployed by the private agency that runs the airport’s parking lot are to collect a fine of Rs 400 from the driver.
For the entire duration that this newspaper was at the airport, there were parking no marshals to collect the fine nor were there any police-men to shoo away the VIP vehicles parked for such long durations.
The near-empty designated parking lot of the airport.
A senior officer of Bidhannagar commissionerate said that it was the prerogative of the airport authority and the agency employed by them to collect the parking fees as well as fines to ask any vehicle parked along the kerbside of the terminal building to move away.
“The parking fees are collected by an agency on the airport authority’s behalf. They are also collecting fines from the offending vehicles. Our job is to intervene if there is congestion and to manage traffic,” said the officer.
An official of M/S Rajendra Singh, the agency that has been awarded the contract for running the parking lot as well as to collect the fines from errant drivers, said their marshals did not dare to approach government vehicles or beacon-fitted vehicles.
“Most of these cars ferry senior functionaries of one government department or the other. We do not want to invite trouble by sending our marshals to collect a fine from them, let alone asking them to drive and park at the designated area. Moreover, most of the drivers of these cars are not found inside the vehicles. They move about here and there leaving the vehicle,” said the agency official.
Another official from the parking agency said the drivers of “VIP” cars would drive in at least an hour before the persons they will pick up are supposed to land.
“They park the vehicles right in front of the terminal building and then go elsewhere to have tea or something. We don’t dare say anything to them,” the man said.