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Every Breath You Take, the DGCA Watches You

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By Shobha John

The aviation industry worldwide is all about safety and security and often has zero tolerance for lapses. As compared to other countries, India is far stricter in its aviation rules and medical clearances. And yet, the lapses are far too many and too often, endangering the lives of thousands of passengers. While the lapses that come most to light are those of the highest paid community in the aviation sector, the pilots, those of others will soon be on the radar too.

The most common misdemeanour is that of drinking. While breath analyser (BA) tests are carried out on pilots and cabin crew and even off-duty pilots who are in the cockpit as additional crew members, many are found slipping these high standards. According to media reports, in the first six months of 2019, 123 pilots and cabin crews failed the BA test. In 2018, the total numbers of crew members who failed the test was a whopping 256.

In fact, Civil Aviation Requirements (CAR) Section 5 which deals with Air Safety (Series F Part III) for flight crew says that “the level of blood alcohol compatible with safe flying is ‘Zero’, which is also recommended by International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). It is equally important to intensify the educational programme for crew members regarding the inherent dangers of flying after consumption of alcohol”.

Also Read: Sanjay Nirupam requests Urmila Matondkar to reconsider her resignation from Congress Party

The CAR also explains: “Alcohol also interferes with the enzymatic cellular process or oxidation, causes hypoxia and reduces individual’s tolerance with increase in altitude. It is known that a low alcohol blood level between 30 mg% to 50 mg% disturbs the sensor-motor, visual and cortical reaction. Consumption of alcohol results in significant deterioration of psychomotor performance and decreases the amount of mental capacity available to deal with many essential tasks involved in the conduct of safe flight. Should an emergency occur in-flight, the crew member under the influence of alcohol is not capable of dealing with the problem.”

While such strictness is valued and expected from flight crew, the DGCA has gone a step further and will now include aircraft maintenance engineers, flight dispatchers, air traffic controllers, machine operators and vehicle drivers working at airports under BA tests. All these personnel are important cogs that move the wheels of aviation and keep them well-oiled. Every minor and major job done by these backroom boys is critically important at the airport and for the safety of planes and passengers. Though these are the support staff for the flight crew, any failure on their part can jeopardise flight operations. How often have we read about drunk drivers hitting stationary planes and damaging parts worth crores. Or freak accidents caused at airports due to airport personnel not being fully alert.

But one wonders if the standards for these personnel will be as strict as those for flight crew. Perhaps that would be taking things a little too far. Though International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) recommendations say that the blood-alcohol level for safe flying is “zero”, traces of alcohol can be found due to other substances too.  Though crew is not supposed to drink 12 hours before a flight, sometimes traces of alcohol can still be found in the blood. Compare our zero tolerance with other countries. In the US, pilots are not allowed to fly with 0.04 percent or higher blood alcohol concentration while in Europe the limit is 0.02 per cent.

Also Read: Memories of Memorials

Would it, therefore, be fair to have the same high standards for airside personnel as for flying crew? Will there be enough doctors and infrastructure in place before these measures are rolled out? After all, this means testing a few thousand people more? And what will be the punishment? For flight crew, these are harsh. If they fail the BA test the first time, they are barred from flying for three months. The second time, it is three years and the third time, their flying licence is permanently revoked.

So while harsh punishment may be a deterrent, the DGCA would be biting off more than it can chew by rolling out the same high standards for other personnel. The key will be in implementation.

India News

AAP leader Sanjay Singh accuses BJP of planning an attack on Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal

The AAP leader accused PM Modi and the BJP of being immersed in hatred so much that they are conspiring to kill the Delhi Chief Minister. He added that the Prime Minister Office, BJP and PM Modi will be responsible if anything happens to Kejriwal.

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Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Sanjay Singh on Monday accused BJP of planning an attack on Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. Singh was addressing a press conference in New Delhi where he said the BJP has been in a state of panic ever since Arvind Kejriwal came out of jail.

He said BJP is now plotting to launch a deadly attack on Arvind Kejriwal. This conspiracy is being conducted directly from the Prime Minister’s Office. A threat of attack on Kejriwal ji has been written at Rajiv Chowk and Patel Nagar Metro stations.

The AAP leader accused PM Modi and the BJP of being immersed in hatred so much that they are conspiring to kill the Delhi Chief Minister. He added that the Prime Minister Office, BJP and PM Modi will be responsible if anything happens to Kejriwal. He pointed out that Kejriwal had not been given insulin for 23 days when he was in judicial custody in Tihar jail.

Singh said a 3 time elected chief minister is being openly threatened with attacks and murder, and nobody is saying anything. He said AAP leaders are writing letters to the Election Commission and if Kejiriwal gets a scratch, the PMO, BJP and PM Modi will be held responsible.

The Supreme Court has given interim bail to the Aam Aadmi Party supremo till June 1 ahead of the Lok Sabha elections in New Delhi. But according to the terms of his bail, the Delhi chief minister cannot make any comments about his role in the Delhi liquor scam case.

 Kejriwal has spent over 50 days in Tihar Jail the Enforcement Directorate arrested him in an excise policy case on March 21, days after the election schedule for the general elections was announced. The bail is applicable until June 1 and Kejriwal has to surrender to authorities on June 2.

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2024 Lok Sabha Elections

36.73% voter turnout recorded till 1 pm in 5th phase of the Lok Sabha elections

36.73% voter turnout recorded till 1 pm in 8 states and UTs; Maharashtra continues to put up a poor show

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Voter turnout at 1 pm was recorded at 36.73% for the 5th phase of the Lok Sabha elections. As this unfolds, significant political showdowns are set to take place across eight states and union territories. Bihar: 34.62%, Jharkhand: 41.89%, Jammu and Kashmir: 34.79%, Maharashtra 27.78%, Ladakh: 52.01%, Uttar Pradesh 39.55%, Odisha 35.31%, West Bengal: 48.41%

Voters in 49 Lok Sabha seats will decide the fate of 695 candidates, with many high-stakes contests featuring political dynasties and senior leaders striving to retain their influence. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi is contesting from Raebareli, a seat held by his mother, Sonia Gandhi, since 2004. He is also contesting the election from Wayanad in Kerala. After losing Amethi to Union Minister Smriti Irani in 2019, the Congress has fielded dedicated worker KL Sharma to challenge Irani this time.

Rohini Acharya, daughter of former Chief Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav, makes her political debut from Saran Lok Sabha seat. Chirag Paswan of the LJP (Ram Vilas) aims to retain the legacy of his late father, Ram Vilas Paswan from Hajipur Lok Sabha seat.

13 out of 48 parliamentary seats in Maharashtra are undergoing elections including high-profile candidates: Dindori: Union Minister Bharati Pravin Pawar (BJP) vs. Bhaskar Bhagare (NCP). Dhule: BJP’s Subhash Ramrao Bhamre vs. Congress’s Shobha Dinesh Bachhav.

Palghar: Hemant Vishnu Savara (BJP) vs. Bharti Kamadi (Shiv Sena UBT). Nashik: Rajabhau Waje (Shiv Sena UBT) vs. Godse Hemant Tukaram (Shiv Sena). This election phase will also serve as a crucial battleground for the factions of Shiv Sena to measure their support among voters.

In Ladakh, an independent candidate is posing a significant challenge to both BJP and Congress contenders. Simultaneous assembly and Lok Sabha polls are taking place in Odisha with the fifth phase, covering 5 Lok Sabha seats and 35 assembly constituencies. Voters in 3 parliamentary Lok Sabha seats — Chatra, Koderma, and Hazaribagh—will cast their votes in this phase.

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India News

IMD issues red alert for heavy rainfall in Kerala

The IMD issued a red alert for the districts of Pathanamthitta, Kottayam, Idukki, and Alappuzha, warning residents and authorities about the potential for further heavy rains.

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The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has issued a red alert for four districts in Kerala till May 21, after heavy pre-monsoon rainfall swept across the southern state on Sunday. The intense downpours affected numerous regions, including the state capital, Thiruvananthapuram. 

Considering the severe weather conditions, the IMD issued a red alert for the districts of Pathanamthitta, Kottayam, Idukki, and Alappuzha, warning residents and authorities about the potential for further heavy rains.

The weather department has also issued an orange alert in the districts of Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, Ernakulam, Thrissur, Palakkad, and Malappuram until May 22, forecasting isolated heavy to very heavy rainfall .

A bulletin issued by the IMD on Sunday stated that strong westerly and south-westerly winds are expected to dominate the lower levels of the state from May 19 to 23. This weather pattern is likely to result in widespread rainfall across isolated areas of Kerala from May 19 to 22. Additionally, heavy to very heavy rainfall is anticipated in isolated regions on May 23.

Given the potential hazards posed by heavy rains, the Kerala State Disaster Management Authority (KSDMA) has urged residents to remain vigilant. The forecasted heavy rainfall over a short period raises concerns about flash floods and urban waterlogging, especially in low-lying areas. It is reported that prolonged rainfall may also lead to landslides. Consequently, authorities advised residents, particularly those in hilly and coastal regions, to exercise caution and stay alert.

Reportedly, stringent directives have been issued to the District Superintendent of Police, Sub Divisional Magistrates, Regional Transport Officers, and Tehsildars to enforce a ban on tourist movements.

Meanwhile, after the Sunday rains visuals across social media showed houses and shops in some areas were inundated. Additionally, canals traversing the capital city and its suburbs have overflowed. Affected residents claimed that the waterlogging in the capital and surrounding areas resulted from the failure to conduct pre-monsoon cleaning of canals and drainage systems.

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