Captain indicted for pilfering scotch bottles from PM's flight in 2006 is now General Manager (operations) and the man Friday of Air India chairman
IN a telling indictment of the state of affairs at Air India, the beleagured airline has, for five long years, failed to take action against an officer whose name figured in a security breach involving Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's aircraft.
N K Beri
The officer was, in fact, recently elevated to the post of Officer on Special Duty (OSD) for Air India's Chairman-cum- Managing Director Arvind Jadhav (CMD) effectively making him Jadhav's Man Friday. Captain NK Beri is now among the most powerful people in the airline.
Besides being the OSD to Jadhav, he is the General manager (Operations) and a member of the hotel selection committee.
The 2006 incident concerning the pilferage of liquor bottles from the PM's aircraft during an official visit to Germany and Uzbekistan (see 'Water Bottles') had led to a major furore and the airline's vigilance department had been instructed to conduct an inquiry.
Its subsequent report (copy exclusively with MiD DAY) had clearly indicted the then Deputy General Manager Captain Beri, but no action has been taken against him since.
'Since he (Beri) is a senior officer, suitable action for major penalty may be considered for possessing liquor bottles sourced from the VVIP flight,' the report had stated
In fact, despite the report recommending in no uncertain terms that some officials aboard the flight, including Beri, should not be assigned to VVIP flights 'in view of the controversy created by their conduct', Beri continues to reserve the privilege to be thus assigned.
In his statement, Beri said that there were indeed five liquor bottles in his baggage but added that he had carried them for personal consumption and PR purposes for certain VVIPs.
The report, however, states 'Unlike the cabin crew, Captain Beri does not have access to the bar carts directly.
In his statement he has mentioned that he had taken these bottles from India and they are Indian Liquor for the purposes of personal consumption and public relations.
Whatever little credence, which can be considered for this version (sic), is straight away nullified by the statements of flight purser Mr.
Daruwala and Dy Manager-Vigilance, Mr Yogendra Singh. It can be safely presumed that these bottles came from within the aircraft.'
Five years on
A senior AI pilot, on condition of anonymity, said, "The CMD is well aware of the matter and he is powerful enough to initiate action against Beri but he had designated him as his OSD instead.
It is also because of Jadhav that Beri is on the on the board of other committees, like hotel selection, and is allowed to operate VVIP flights."
Former executive director (PR), Air India, Jitendra Bhargava who was with the airline at the time of the incident, said, "I can recall a few such cases involving him (Beri) but nothing was done to penalise him.
I can say that some people are naturally more equal than others when it comes to being favoured by the incumbent chairman."
2006: Beri was also accused of withdrawing $13,000 from the official account for giving 'some gifts to delegates' on the same trip but the PMO said it had not authorised Air India to give any such gifts.
June 2009: Air India issued a show cause notice to Beri for refusing to fly an empty aircraft to Mumbai from Riyadh recently, saying it had a technical problem and hence was not safe.
"Since refusal of flight by Capt N K Beri was without proper reasoning, he was served a show cause notice," an Air India spokesperson had said.
February 2011: One of the two pilot unions in Air India accused the airline of allegedly overlooking passenger safety to allow a junior pilot to train on the Boeing 777 aircraft, which is the latest addition to its fleet. The junior pilot was Beri's son
In April 2006, when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's was on a four day visit to Germany and Uzbekistan, it was discovered that six liquor bottles were missing from the VVIP bar cart.
In 2006, Captain Beri was accused of stealing six bottles of alcohol. The report claimed he did not have access to the bar carts
When the baggage of the crew, pilots and the other officials was passed through an X-ray machine 29 liquor bottles were recovered from 14 people. Most officials lied to investigators and claimed the liquor bottles were water bottles.
The Other Side
A spokesperson of Air India said that he was not completely aware of the details as he was not part Air India at the time of the incident. CMD Arvind Jadhav and Captain N K Beri could not be reached for comment despite repeated attempts.
Former managing director of Air India, Captain D S Mathur said, "The case of any reward or award does not arise in such a case and, during my tenure as managing director, I followed the guidelines and punished people involved in any such activities.
A person's involvement in such a case reflects on his character and I believe the concerned pilot should be severely punished."