In a sudden development, the Civil Aviation Ministry gave marching orders to the DGCA chief EK Bharat Bhushan on Tuesday evening with immediate effect. The 1979 batch Kerala cadre IAS officer had got six months extension just a week ago.
There was no official word on the reasons for his removal, but there were speculation that DGCA notice to Kingfisher to ground its operation for breach of safety norms, may have led to his exit. Bhushan had also issued notices to Air India and Kingfisher Airlines to pay dues to their employees.
Bhushan, an IAS officer of the 1979 batch from Kerala cadre, took over from Syed Nasim Ahmad Zaidi in December 2010 as DGCA chief. He will continue to serve as Additional Secretary and Financial Advisor in the Civil Aviation Ministry, official sources said.
He handed over charges to Prashant Narain Sukul, a Joint Secretary in the Ministry, who would also be holding the position as an additional charge, they said.
As the Director General of Civil Aviation, Bhushan brought in stringent measures to prevent airlines from compromising on safety matters on account of their financial trouble.
He had bluntly told loss-making Air India and Kingfisher Airlines to pay up the employees’ dues. Both the airlines have defaulted on timely payment of salaries and allowances for several months. Bhushan had said that safety could be adversely affected by a demotivated staff, particularly a pilot, an engineer or a cabin crew if they were not paid their salaries and dues.
During his 20-month tenure as the head of the aviation regulatory body, 57-year-old Bhushan handled a series of major cases of flouting of aviation rules, including the fake pilots scam and fudging of records by flying schools.
Bhushan was actively involved in the Mangalore air crash investigations and had brought in big changes by computerising licensing examinations for pilots and engineers. He was appointed Chairman-cum-Managing Director of Air India in 2009 for a few months, after incumbent Raghu Menon left the national carrier as its Managing Director in 2009.
Three months ago, a search committee set up to find his replacement had failed to select a suitable candidate, following which his tenure was extended till further orders. For the post of DGCA, an IAS officer has to spend considerable time in the Civil Aviation Ministry to get to know about the complexities of the aviation sector.
Speculation is rife that the DGCA bureaucrat was shunted out to placate a top airline honcho. The timing of the move has stirred a hornets’ nest in the troubled Directorate. Ministry sources were tight-lipped on what prompted the sudden move.
Capt Shekhar Gupta
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