Calcutta airport rules relaxed for devotees
Followers of a religious guru parked their vehicles in front of the terminal building of the city airport for more than half an hour on Thursday afternoon, officials said.
When challenged by marshals, the followers produced pieces of paper purportedly issued by police authorising them to park their vehicles in front of the terminal.
Earlier this week, devotees of another religious leader had been issued “special passes” to enter the terminal, though entry of visitors is banned because of heightened security following the Pulwama attack, the sources said.
Cars that remain parked in front of the terminal for more than 10 minutes are slapped a fine of Rs 400. However, government vehicles and cars belonging to “VIPs” are allowed free parking for hours in violation of rules.
Sources said three to four vehicles that were parked near gate number 3C for more than half an hour were about to leave around noon on Thursday when an airport marshal stopped them.
Marshals are employees of an agency hired by the Airports Authority of India to manage parking.
“The vehicles were parked there for more than half an hour. When they were about to leave, a marshal stopped them and told the drivers that free parking in front of the terminal was allowed only for 10 minutes,” a source said.
The people in the car then produced some pieces of paper.
“Those are slips issued at the kiosks at the entry gate of the airport compound. The time of a car’s entry is written on such slips. But the slips the occupants of the car produced had a signature and a stamp with WBP (West Bengal Police) written in it,” the source said.
The marshal then took one of the occupants of the car to a senior airport official.
Asked by the official, the man said a police officer had signed the slips. “The man said he and the others in the cars were followers of a religious guru and had come to see him off,” the source said. The cars were then allowed to leave without being fined.
An officer of the Bidhannagar commissionerate said no officer had signed any such slip. “I don’t know what happened in this case but we don’t sign on the slips issued by the kiosks at the airport. If any VIP goes to the airport, our officers turn up and request the authorities to allow the vehicle to be parked in front of the terminal,” the officer said.
“The airport authorities manage the parking.... We, too, have the authority to fine a vehicle for violation of parking rules on the airport premises,” the officer added.
Metro had on March 27 reported that VIP/government vehicles were allowed to remain parked in front of the terminal building for at least an hour without being fined. This, when other cars were being penalised for remaining parked for more than 10 minutes.
Earlier this week, followers of another religious leader entered the terminal to see him off. Sources said the police had issued them forms that airport officials had to sign to grant them access inside the terminal. Police officers did not comment on the matter.
As part of nation-wide security beef-up following the Pulwama attack, visitor entry into airport terminals is banned. This newspaper, however, has reported that political workers were allowed inside the terminal of the city airport a number of times despite the ban.