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Flight into danger

A dishonourable Member of the Parliament assaulted a 60-year old Air India employee by hitting him with his footwear 25 times. Had an ordinary citizen so assaulted a dishonourable politician, he would have now been behind bars. But, you see, the law in our country is not flat.

Then Air India did the impossible. It said it would not fly this common crook.  The man tried every trick to book a ticket, but the usually not-so-efficient airline called his bluff each time. Better still, in a remarkable show of camaraderie, the other airlines too put this man on the no-fly list. 

 

Extra-ordinary pluck

For the first time in the history of flying in India, a man was treated as an untouchable. Also, possibly for the first time, Air India, widely known as the handmaiden of the government, showed extraordinary pluck to have its way. Interestingly a few compulsive tweeters kept off this subject. 

Some of you might wonder why should we take this up a month after the ban had been revoked. Because: the underlying issues remain unresolved and because the truth affects us all. 

First up, why did the dishonourable Member of Parliament, who called the national airlines names during the ban period, repeatedly try to fly Air India. If he had any self-respect, he should have flown from Mumbai to London on an international carrier and then from London to Delhi on another international flight. But then such privileges are not yet included in the several packs offered to our law-makers. Secondly,  why didn’t parliamentarians cutting across party lines not  throw this goon to the wolves? Why were the ruling party and the opposition silent?  

 

Some quick lessons

One, India must have a No Fly List. Anyone whose name appears on it should not be allowed to fly anywhere in India or out of it. In the aftermath of 9/11, the United States maintains one. Britain supports one. Why should India be any different?  Air India has suggested a penalty upto Rs 15 lakh. 

 

Money cannot buy manners

Two, historically as a breed, Indian flyers lack etiquette. They disengage their seat beats even before the signs are switched off. They open the overhead locker even before the aircraft has come to a complete halt. Ask them to board in a certain order; they would choose to board in a different order. Obviously, money cannot buy manners.  If this man had been shamed, next up Indian flyers too could have been shamed. We have let go a golden opportunity.  

Three, we need to apply the law uniformly. What would the 60-year old staffer think of this government? The man was doing his duty and was slapped for the effort. While his immediate employers did support him, the ultimate boss, the government of India, let him down.  Yes, they had their political compulsions. Forget pride and nationalism, we haven’t  changed in the 18 years since Kandahar. 

And finally, we must also look at social boycotts. 

 

Electing clowns, crooks and criminals...

The trouble is we elect clowns, crooks and criminals into our politics. No party is an exception to this. When others field men of doubtful morality, they are dirty; when I do, I am professional as I go by the principle of win-ability. As long as we sugarcoat our compromises, we will have to live with these nightmares.  

There is also an urgent need to strip our parliamentarian of their myriad privileges. On the one side the prime minister says everyone is a VIP and on the other his minister Venkaiah Naidu, while speaking on security cover, says some people are more important. If the head of the government wants to walk the talk, he must withdraw all privileges to his colleagues just as he had asked the common man to give up  a paltry gas concession. 

In the end, if the government comes out with a charter on No-flying, we may have just about moved in the right direction and should thank this dishonourable Member of Parliament for it.  

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