Airlines forced to bend to political blackmail

Ok, this is the 2nd controversial topic I’m writing an article about. As mentioned before, constructive criticism is welcome; but personal attacks or abuses will mean the commenter being blocked and reported to the forum support/administration. As probably many of us know, on March 23rd; Shiv Sena MP Ravindra Gaikwad assaulted a 60-year old Air India staff Mr. Sukumar in a nasty manner, hitting him with slippers and breaking his spectacles.

The MP had been allotted a seat in domestic class in a flight from Pune to New Delhi, though he had purchased a business class ticket. When the flight landed at New Delhi, the MP obviously complained to Mr.Sukumar. The flight (AI-852) was an all-economy class flight; hence Air India could not provide a seat in business class for Mr.Gaikwad. While a neutral observer can sympathize with someone being forced to travel in economy class after holding an open business class ticket; what followed was despicable on part of the MP. Mr. Sukumar urged Gaikwad to deboard the plane after it landed at the New Delhi airport. However, the politician not only refused to do so; but showed brazen violence, hitting Mr.Sukumar with his slipper several times, tearing his shirt and breaking his spectacles. He also showered him in the foulest language possible, and humiliated the employee in front of the whole Air India crew.

Following this extremely disgraceful incident, Air India and 5 other airlines (Jet Airways, Spice Jet, Go Air, Indigo and Air Vistara) took a noble and bold move, banning Ravindra Gaikwad from flying on any of their flights.

The credit for this mainly goes to Mr. Ashwani Lohani, CMD(Chairman and Managing Director) of Air India. A firm believer in the “employee first” approach, Mr. Lohani not only ensured that the MP was banned from travelling in AI, but also garnered support from the other 5 airlines against the shameless Gaikwad who refused to even apologize for his violent behaviour. Thus he stood up for his faithful employee Mr.Sukumar who had been assaulted by his client (the MP); following the “employee first” approach to the tee.

However, all this was most unfortunately shortlived. Shiv Sena, a political party known for its countless acts of vandalism; and the party to which the MP Gaikwad belongs; indulged in political blackmail, threatening to stop all flights from Mumbai in order to protest against the ban on Gaikwad. The party members created a ruckus in the Lok Sabha session.

A leader of the party, Mr. Sanjay Raut had the temerity to compare the Airlines to mafia and goons; and demanded an apology from Air India for its “misbehaviour”.

The irony of the statements of these party leaders will not be lost on anyone. However, apart from making fools of themselves by these idiotic statements; the Shiv Sena members even came close to beating up Civil Aviation Minister Mr. Gajapathy Raju.

Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, while trying to come up with an amicable resolution to the issue; ended up being soft on the MP Gaikwad by saying that “MPs need to travel by flight” ; while being silent on the atrociousness of his behaviour that first prompted a ban, and also not speaking out about the blackmailing threats used by the Shiv Sena party as a whole against the ban.

After all this, the shameless Gaikwad shed crocodile tears by written a letter of regret to Mr. Gajapathy Raju; but refused point-blank to apologize for his violent behaviour towards the AI employee Mr.Sukumar, claiming it was AI’s fault and not his. He even called Mr.Sukumar “mad”, claiming that he was involved in 8 brawl cases.

Now, the ban on MP Gaikwad has been lifted; and he travelled in business class from Pune to New Delhi in the same flight AI-852 in which he assaulted staffer Mr.Sukumar!

I am speechless at this turnaround. This is defeat handed on a silver platter to a goon as a reward for his violent behaviour towards an airline employee who was just performing his duty! What kind of message does it send out to the airline staff all over the country, and to the millions of passengers travelling by flight everyday ? A politician assaults an airline staff, gets rightfully banned by the Airlines, refuses to apologize; his political party resorts to blackmail and the Aviation Ministry lifts the ban suddenly! With all due respect to the Aviation Ministry for their efforts to resolve this issue, did you ever think about the poor employee who was assaulted, as to what he would feel at this condoning of such violent behaviour? or about the safety of passengers unfortunate enough to travel in a flight with such goons like Gaikwad? or about Air India as a whole, and their efforts (particularly that of the CMD Mr.Lohani) to stand up against such violent and uncivilized behaviour by banning such goons?

Had Gaikwad been a “common man” as his party Shiv Sena claims, his ban would have been permanent. However, he is an MP, and that too an MP belonging to a violent party thriving on blackmail, intimidation and fear-mongering. As everyone knows, the political party at the Centre is BJP. Shiv Sena is their ally in Maharashtra. So, the government at the Centre has ultimately put its vested interests above that of the common man – whether it be the passengers or the staff of Air India and other airlines. So much for India being the world’s largest democracy. Yet it is our mistake isn’t it, we only have voted for such selfish people to come to power! Now attack me with your comments. I however, am going to sleep at the end of a long day of work. Good night!

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