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India's Civil Aviation Ministry Grounded By Remnant of Colonial Era

India's Civil Aviation Ministry says it has been stymied in its four-year quest to rid the country of one of the last vestiges of British colonialism - the "VT" tail number identifications on Indian airliners and other planes. VOA correspondent Steve Herman has details from New Delhi.

India's Congress Party and the political opposition rarely agree on much. But for years they have been allied in a quest to convince international regulators to give the country a new prefix for India's civil aircraft.

The problem is with the code Indian planes have used since 1929, in the era the British ruled the subcontinent. The "VT" prefix is said to represent either "Victorian Territory" or "Viceroy's Territory."

India's assignment of radio call signs starting with the letter "V" actually goes all the way back to the London International Radiotelegraphic Conference of 1913.

Independent aviation consultant Kiran Yadav, a veteran of Air India and the International Air Transport Association, calls the quest meaningless. He says the ministry's energies would be better spent on improving the industry's over-stressed infrastructure, rather than worrying about the legacy of Queen Victoria's territory.

"People can get offended for the most silliest of reasons," Yadav said. "I don't think it's worth spending any time in trying to change it and repaint the aircrafts and re-do the paperwork. We should spend more time in trying to keep dogs out of the runway."

Animals straying onto runways are a frequent hazard at India's airports.

But the spokesperson for India's Civil Aviation Ministry, Maushmi Chakravarty, says the "VT" does not make any sense in post-colonial India and the government asked for a new code from the International Civil Aviation Organization. Officials pursued call sign blocs starting with either the letter "B" (for the Hindi word Bharat, meaning India) or the letter "I." But these were found to already have been assigned to China and Italy, respectively.

Asked why India could not utilize other blocs it has already been allocated by the International Telecommunications Union - "AT" through "AW" and "8T" through "8Y" - the ministry's spokeswoman says they are not symbolic of India and are just meaningless letters and numbers.

India's maritime vessels do use "VW," ""AT" and "AU" prefixes and amateur radio licensees here are usually assigned the "VU" prefix.