Aviation minister stirs controversy with 'I carry matchboxes on flights' comment

New Delhi: In clear violation of rules, Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju, a chain smoker, carries matchboxes with him on flights since he is not subjected to frisking.

Raju made this confession during his address at the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) event here today when he said that before becoming a minister last year, his matchboxes and lighters were confiscated by airport security. He had lost all his lighters and matchboxes then.

But after becoming the minister for civil aviation "people stopped frisking me" and "my matchbox also came along with me", he said.

The Minister's comment comes against the backdrop of rising concerns about aviation security in the country.

Matchboxes and lighters are among the items that are not allowed inside aircraft in India.

When asked whether matchbox should be allowed inside aircraft, Raju said, "I don't know. I carry a matchbox in my pocket. Even now, here also, I carry it. There is no secret (about it)".

"My own lighters and matchboxes kept getting confiscated.... It is just a fact that I mentioned," he added.

On being asked whether he carries matchbox even while travelling in flight, Raju quipped, "You (reporters) are going to make an issue out of it" but added that "I have yet to come across an incident worldwide where a matchbox became a threat."

The Minister, however, emphasised that security should be meaningful rather than being obtrusive.

"(So how do we) make security meaningful without being obtrusive or without obstructing economic activities. We need to make security less obtrusive," Raju noted. 

Raju is a senior leader of the Telugu Desam Party, an NDA ally.

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