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Blame game over Air India stowaway
Published on 28 Dec. 2009 12:26 AM IST
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The stowaway who sneaked onboard an Air India Medina-Jaipur flight by hiding in the toilet was Sunday interrogated by Rajasthan police, which said the airline was to blame for the incident and it was planning to file a case of “gross negligence” against it. However, Air India brushed away all blame, saying it was not at fault as the stowaway was an employee of a flight handling agency at Medina airport in Saudi Arabia and had a valid identity card enabling him access to the security cleared zone where the aircraft is parked. “The airline has not been informed by the police authorities of any action contemplated against the crew of the flight,” an Air India statement said in Delhi. “Air India has sought explanation from the local ground handling agency in Medina as to how one of their employees managed to remain on board the aircraft after having performed his assigned duties on the aircraft,” the statement said. But police in Jaipur said the incident was “gross negligence” on the part of Air India as the crew had not checked the toilet before take off. “We are thinking of filing a case against the airline,” said a police official, speaking on condition he was not named. “Prima facie, the negligence seems to be of Air India staff. The crew members usually check the cockpit and toilet before take off, but in this case it seems nothing was checked,” he said. The official said the authorities or the crew members did not alert the air traffic controller (ATC) even after they discovered the stowaway. “We arrested the person after immigration authorities informed us here in Jaipur.” The stowaway, Habib Hussain, 26, from Moradabad in Uttar Pradesh, had gone to Saudi Arabia six months ago and was employed as a loader by an agency providing services at Medina airport. On Saturday, Hussain went on board the Airbus A-330 for maintenance work and locked himself in the toilet. He was noticed by the cabin crew after the flight had been airborne for 30 minutes. “He did not pose any threat to the safety and security of the aircraft and the passengers,” the Air India statement said. Hussain told the crew that he was an Indian national and was desperate to fly home as he was “dissatisfied with his employment conditions” in Saudi. The commander of the flight, who is the supreme authority in such instances as per the international law, after satisfying himself that there was no safety or security threat decided to continue the flight to its destination, Jaipur, the airline said. The ATC Jaipur was informed and on landing there Hussain was handed over to police. Meanwhile, the state intelligence bureau has started investigations on how Hussain managed to board the flight and hide inside the toilet undetected for around 30-40 minutes. “We are questioning Habib Hussain on how he managed to breach the security and was able to travel without papers and proper document from Medina to Jaipur,” a state intelligence official said. “We have asked his family members from the address he has given to us to come here and verify and identify the person,” the official said. His relatives were expected to arrive in Jaipur later Sunday. Hussain is being interrogated in a Special Operations Group office situated in Jhalana Doongri area of Jaipur. The police have filed a case against Hussain under the Passport (Entry into India) Act.

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