At least one person is not one bit impressed by Defence Minister George Fernandes's recent penchant for flying in the country's frontline fighter planes, describing it as a political stunt.
The minister had on Thursday announced in the Lok Sabha that he intends to fly on a MiG-21, uncharitably referred to as 'flying coffins' following a spate of crashes.
One of the victims was 27-year-old Indian Air Force fighter pilot Abhijit Gadgil, who died during a routine training exercise on a MiG-21 near Bikaner in Rajasthan on September 17, 2001.
His mother Kavita Gadgil, on Friday, accused Fernandes of taking joyrides at the expense of taxpayers.
Kavita Gadgil heads the Abhijit Air Safety Foundation, formed in December 2002, which wants the IAF to stop using MiG fighter aircraft.
She, along with others whose family members died in MiG crashes, wants to apprise President A P J Abdul Kalam of the dangers of flying MiG aircraft.
They are awaiting the President's nod to their request for an appointment.
Describing Fernandes's plan as a political stunt, Gadgil said, "Instead of finding ways to prevent MiG crashes, the defence minister is going on joyrides."
"Recently, he flew on a Sukhoi, some times he goes to Siachen (Glacier, the highest battlefield on Earth); is this a circus or what?"
According to Gadgil, in the last 35 months, 30 accidents involving MiG-21s have been reported, in which 17 pilots lost their lives.
"Even during the Kargil conflict, the only plane that crashed, due to technical problems, was a MiG-21, which Nachiketa was flying. He was arrested by Pakistani soldiers."
"Yet our government insists there is nothing wrong with MiG planes, and blames pilot error for the accidents," she pointed out.
"If that is the case, how do they allow these pilots to fly the planes?
"The superiors of these pilots should be held responsible for making these pilots fly the MiGs," she said.
Kavita clarified that her diatribe was not aimed at discouraging youngsters from joining the armed forces.
"I just want to highlight the problem, the need to correct the situation and, possibly, save other pilots," she said.
Abhijit's father Anil Gadgil showed a letter to mediapersons in which the IAF had asked the family to reimburse the expenses incurred on the funeral of their son.
"Is this what my son deserved after losing his life in the course of duty? We are free today because many people like my child are serving this country. The least the IAF can do is to give them the respect they deserve," he said.