Wednesday, October 27, 2010

[HumJanenge] Expose AI, lose retirement benefit

Air India threatens to quash retirement gains of former employee for
exposing discrepancies

Pradeep Khanna (55), a former senior flight purser with Indian
Airlines (now Air India), who exposed irregularities in the airline's
golden handshake scheme, has peeved the state-owned carrier just
enough to resort to retribution.

The airline has threatened to scrap his retirement benefits, as his
expos © has besmirched "the company's image".

In a recent letter to Khanna, Air India has written, "You were
explained repeatedly the reason for rejection of your application
under VRRS 2007.

Despite this you have chosen to approach the press, misrepresenting
the facts, thereby tarnishing the image of the company in the eyes of

This act of yours is viewed seriously. It is therefore proposed to
withhold the benefits that are being given to you as a retired

The golden handshake was a voluntary rejuvenation/rehabilitation
scheme (VRRS) introduced in 2007 for AI employees.

They were paid Rs 25 lakh, excluding benefits, to take voluntary retirement.

MiD DAY had earlier reported on Khanna's revelatory RTI applications
("Did minister's wife net perks?" May 17, 2010).

But despite the airline's reprisal, Khanna says he will not yield
ground. "Why should I bow down to a company which dishonestly
distributed the scheme?

I have filed a complaint with the public grievances commission and the
office of the president of India," said Khanna.

The RTI pleas

December 2009: Khanna had exposed the irregularities in Air India's
golden handshake scheme through an RTI query. Following that, the
vigilance department of Air India admitted that the scheme benefited
even those who were not eligible for it (documents with MiD DAY). It
had asked Air India to initiate action against officers responsible
for the distribution under the scheme.

May 2010: In a second RTI query, Khanna asked Air India whether Neelam
Pratap Singh, wife of ex- aviation minister Rajiv Pratap Rudy, was the
sole beneficiary of this scheme.

AI surprised Khanna with its reply, saying that out of 18 applications
13 could not be approved under the scheme, three had been withdrawn by
the applicants themselves, and one had expired, leaving Neelam as the
only beneficiary.

The Other Side

According to an Air India spokesperson, "The company has already
explained to Khanna why his VRRS application was rejected. But as I
don't know anything about the letter issued to Khanna, I cannot make
any comment without going through the details."

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