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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2399

Flying Ban On MP- Govt Capitulates To Shiv Sena

By Tushar Charan - Syndicate Features

Despite its massive majority in the Lok Sabha, the allegedly tough-talking Narendra Modi government easily surrendered to the bluster by its oldest ally, Shiv Sena, in the matter regarding the ban on flying by a Shiv Sena MP, Ravindra Gaikwad. In the process the government may have encouraged more people to indulge in gross misconduct, including unruly behavior, inside aircrafts and at airports.

One day, the nation watched the civil aviation minister being ‘gheraoed’ and heckled by Shiv Sena members in parliament and being escorted to his chamber by BJP ministers. Next day, the same civil aviation ministry was asking Air India to immediately lift the ban on flying by the erring Shiv Sena law maker, who was almost universally condemned for his behaviour inside an Air India aircraft after it landed in Delhi.

By his own admission, the MP had thrashed a 60-year-old Air India employee ‘25 times’ with his slippers. He had refused to leave the aircraft which was to be prepared for its next flight. The ostensible reason for the revocation of the ban order was a letter of apology from Gaikwad which did not appear to suggest that the MP really regretted his behaviour. He had no remorse in beating an elderly employee and wanted him to apologise instead.

The government’s capitulating act would not come as a surprise because it uses its majority in parliament only to steam roll the Opposition and in pursuit of its agenda. The government’s indifference to the concerns of people and their sufferings has by now become a fact. The growing incidents of vigilante violence against innocent citizens does not move the government; it is even more unconcerned about the ruination caused to thousands of people who were suddenly deprived of their savings when the last date for changing high currency notes was shifted to middle of December from March 31. The government touted the decision as part of its drive to end black money circulation!

To come back to the Shiv Sena MP and his antics. He adopted a defiant note from the beginning, perhaps in full knowledge that the Shiv Sena held all the aces in Maharashtra despite being a junior partner of the government at the Centre. As in many other states in the last three years, the BJP with all the fanfare about the ‘Modi wave’ failed to win enough seats to claim a clear majority in the Maharashtra assembly after the state assembly polls in 2014. It was able to form the government with the help of the Shiv Sena even though the two parties had fought the polls as virtual ‘enemies’.

The Shiv Sena has continued in almost the same mode after the formation of the government in Maharashtra. It rarely misses an opportunity to criticise and ridicule the government in Mumbai Sachivalaya or on Delhi’s Raisina Hill. The BJP, with capturing power in all the states as its main goal, looks for opportunities to return the compliments to Shiv Sena only when it can be sure that it faces no danger to its power and the issue has wide public support.

Ravindra Gaikwad offered such an opportunity because his boorish behaviour drew condemnation from all political parties and the civil society, not to speak of staff of Air India and other airlines in the country. For the shouting anchors on TV channels, he was like a villain. The BJP was swimming with the tide, so to say, when it joined the chorus of criticism against Gaikwad.

But even in this the party was a bit cautious by not spelling out a firm line of action to be taken against Gaikwad and on the question why he had been treated rather leniently considering the graveness of his act. Any ordinary passenger would have almost certainly landed in jail for unruly behaviour. Gaikwad was seen as endangering the safety of passengers. It needlessly upset the flying schedule of the airline. The nation had been shocked by the manner in which an elected person had abused his privilege.

The farthest that the government was willing to go was to slap a ‘no fly’ order on Gaikwad. It barely lasted two weeks. Gaikwad’s egregious act of March 24 was condoned by the government’s order of April 7 that allowed him to fly again.

It must have shocked many, particularly employees in various airlines who had come together to denounce the MP. Air India employees, the cabin crew as well as pilots, had described Gaikwad as a ‘risk’ to passenger safety.

It is not often that all employees of a public sector airline (Air India)—and also the private airlines—stand behind an action taken by their chief executive or the managing director, who had concurred with the decision to impose a ban on Gaikwad’s flying. The employees were also unanimous in asking the government and the MD to stand firm on their action against the MP.

But that was not to be. A so-called loophole in the rules set by the Director General of Civil Aviation on what is called Civil Aviation Requirement (CAR) is said to have helped the government bailout Gaikwad. The CAR does not specify the duration of a ban on flying.

A matter that figured prominently after the Gaikwad episode was the likelihood of the government preparing a list of people who could be banned from flying. This appears to be nothing but a diversionary tactic. The most important thing is that there should be a uniform law for all citizens—MPs and ordinary mortals alike. An ordinary person would never be able to get away with what Gaikwad did inside an aircraft at the Delhi airport.

A government that cannot apply rules equally cannot be trusted to act fairly. As it is, our leaders, elected or unelected, have been fast loosing respect. The civil society watches with helplessness when the elected representatives show more interest in hiking their remunerations rather than honestly serving the people who elect them to power. The disenchantment is accentuated when the public finds that the government installed on the strength of popular mandate fails to act against errant representatives.

- Asian Tribune –

Grounded FIA - Air India Ban ShivShiva Sena MP Ravindra Gaikwad from flying, cancel his return ticket
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