news Tuesday, August 11, 2015 - 05:30
  EXCLUSIVE From May 2014, several media reports suggested that Congress President Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law Robert Vadra may have lost special privileges he enjoys at civil airports in the country, but an RTI reply reveals otherwise. There was much ire directed at Vadra by many social media users and several media houses in April this year and channels went after the businessman for having privileged access to airports around the country.  Reports later surfaced which claimed that many airports were removing Vadra’s name from the list of VIPs who enjoyed special privileges at airports including exemption from frisking. The response to an RTI filed by TNM however, reveals that Vadra’s name still figures at Number 31 on the list. Vadra is still exempt from a pre-embarkation check “while travelling with SPG protectees”. Members of the Gandhi family including Sonia, Rahul and Priyanka are protected by SPG guards on their travels. Why Vadra enjoys such privileges was the subject of much debate, and even the ruling BJP had much to say in the matter, calling for Vadra’s name to be removed. The present BJP-led government at the Centre came to power in May last year and the party was expected to go after Vadra and get his name removed from the list of dignitaries of which he is the only private member.   The RTI reply says: “It is informed further that no changes have been made to this list after May, 2014.” This RTI response contradicts a lot of information in the public domain.  The civil aviation ministry had reportedly demanded for Vadra’s name to be removed from the list of dignitaries in November last year. The Home Ministry was expected to take a call on the matter but it would seem that it hasn’t. Adding to all the confusion, Vadra had said this in a Facebook post from April: “I watched on the electronic media discussions again about my name being on a list for special privileges at airports in India. I'm glad that this formality has been removed as this was created without my consent, by the security agencies, only to be followed when I would be travelling with SPG protectees.” The RTI reply however contradicts what Vadra has to say and it is clear from the document that no changes have been made to the list in the past fifteen months. The remainder of the RTI response can be found below:  
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