Here is an archaic joke popular during the US Taleban Afghan War – “Dick Cheney and George W Bush were flying on Air Force One. George looked at Dick, chuckled and said, “You know, I could throw a $100.00 bill out the window right now and make one person very happy.” Dick shrugged his stiff shoulders and said, “Well, I could throw ten $10.00 bills out the window and make 10 people very happy.” Laura tossed her perfect air-sprayed hair and said, “I could throw one hundred $1.00 bills out the window and make a hundred people very happy.” Condoleezza Rice rolled her eyes, looked at all of them and said, “I could throw all three of you out the window and make the whole country happy.”
Reading about the delayed flights caused by the tantrums and late arrivals of the power-propelling politicians and their retinues, I feel that pockets of turbulence lies ahead the flight as politics of the nation is turning murky. We know that Power begets arrogance and only the high moral, disciplined and principled life could be a deterrent for the possible eventualities. It seems that bunch of BJP politicians, ministers and even TV spokesmen are losing their bearings these days.
It was heartening to learn that the Centre had assured Haj pilgrims of better facilities this year by taking corrective measures to deal with problems faced last year when the state-run Air India was accused of mishandling their travel, causing long delay. Minister of State for External Affairs Gen (retd) V K Singh said he would carry out surprise visits to see if services are being offered to pilgrims by different agencies involved in the exercise and asserted that action would be taken. Speaking at the All India Haj Conference, he had told all airlines, including Air India, entrusted with the job of flying pilgrims had been asked to offer quality services and catering facilities too were improved.
However, the Controversial saffron leader Sadhvi Prachi has once again stirred up a hornet’s nest with her ‘inciting remarks,’ On Wednesday at a function in Muzaffarnagar town she threatened, “Haj pilgrims will have to face the consequences if there is any terror attack on pilgrims going to Amarnath. We will give a befitting reply in case of a terror attack this time. Eent ka jawab pathar se diya jayega (it will be tit for tat).” She did decry the subsidy on Haj pilgrimage and demanded the same for Hindu pilgrims -“It is shameful that Haj pilgrims receive subsidies while Hindu pilgrims are taxed.”
India’s VIP Culture
And from communal threats to administrative compliance, we fall a step further down. Recently, an Air India flight was delayed and three passengers reportedly de-boarded to accommodate Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju last week. Rijiju was accompanied by JK Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh and the duo were to fly to Delhi from Leh. There were other problems also like late arrival and payment mod of air-ticket in this context. While grilled by reports, Mr. Rijiju expressed his unawareness and innocence about the incident. He denied the allegations that three passengers had been de-boarded to accommodate him. The Minister had gone to Leh in J&K by a Border Security Force (BSF) helicopter to attend Sindhu Darshan function. Due to bad weather the helicopter could not take off and last minute arrangements were made to fly Rijiju and the Deputy CM by an Air India flight AI 446, whose scheduled departure was at 11.40 am. Singh’s officer on special duty (OSD) Shakti Pathak was also on the flight. ‘Air India’ had advanced the flight timing to save time as all the passengers had already arrived at the airport and the boarding was complete.
The plane was put on hold for the Minister’s team and the already-confirmed boarded passengers had to disembark. “The administration arranged our tickets and we were never informed that to make way for our seats, three passengers have been de-boarded. Had we been informed, we would have never appreciated this step of the administration,” said Rijiju. The incident came to light after Times Now news channel aired an internal report filed by the airport manager at Leh airport saying the flight was delayed by more than an hour due to VIP movement of MoS (Home).
This incident has followed the earlier episode that is still fresh on the platter of VIP culture where the politicians and their aides allegedly appeared to avail and enjoy the special treatments. On last Monday morning, an Air India flight from Mumbai to New York, with Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on board, was delayed by nearly an hour on account of a member of his entourage. It was reported that a politician’s aide, Shri Praveen Pardeshi, arrived at the airport with an outdated passport. Passengers were then forced to wait for over 50 minutes while the bureaucrat’s new passport was delivered to him. The Chief Minister was on an official trip to the US. Mr Pardeshi is a member of his delegation.
In the follow up, Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju said that he was sorry if any passenger was inconvenienced.“No passenger was offloaded. It is not permissible. How can a passenger be offloaded from the aircraft? I will also not avail any opportunity at the cost of another passenger. Three passengers were stopped because they were late. So it is a case of debarring. If inconvenience was caused because the flight was pre-poned then we apologize for it.”
And two passengers travelling on the same US-bound Air India aircraft from Mumbai as have come out in Maharashtra CM’s support, saying he did not delay the flight. An angry CM Fadnavis had tweeted on Thursday that he would file for defamation once he was back in the country over the controversy of his delegation delaying the Air India flight from Mumbai to New York on June 29.
Special Inquiries would reveal the depth of VIP- Obeisance Culture that is pervading the social and political life of the country. However, the dogmatic outreach of power-drunk politicians at the expense of public interest doesn’t augur well for the democracy of India.
By Naim Naqvi