Friday, May 28, 2010


I was scheduled to take IC 878 from Bhubaneswar to Delhi on May 26 after doing field work for a story on the controversial Vedanta University project in Orissa (Please do read the cover story in this issue). Of course, I became one of the thousands of ‘stranded’ passengers thanks to the “irresponsible” strike called by the trade unions of Air India. I managed to get a ticket on an Indigo flight and landed safely in Delhi. Today morning, I picked up the papers and read that Civil Aviation minister Praful Patel was telling journalists that “there has to be some accountability” even as he blasted unions of Air India for suddenly going on strike so soon after the Mangalore tragedy.

I couldn’t help laughing loudly at the words and also laughing at the hysterical sanctimony displayed by newspapers and TV channels branding Air India employees as anti-national ghouls and blackmailers. I really don’t think you and I can blame the employees and the unions for the strike or for thinking that they are not accountable. Hold your breath: I hold no brief for the unionised employees. Like you and others, I am also disgusted by these antics. But then, who made these employees so unaccountable in the first place? And is accountability a one way street for employees to follow while politicians and top bureaucrats wantonly flout norms? In case you forgot, one of the more interesting items of news that came out during the muck raking IPL scandal recently was how the daughter of Praful Patel had allegedly diverted Air India flights with paying passengers to suit either her fancy or that of Lalit Modi or God knows who. Did accountability fl y out of the window Mr. Patel? Were not paying passengers harassed by these abrupt and arbitrary changes in their flight schedules? And how many journalists and media outlets since then have you seen or heard chasing the story and finding out if the daughter of the Civil Aviation minister did those things?

Frankly, our system is so rotten that even journalists like me have become used to the fact that ministers and their kin have a birthright when it comes to doing anything they want to. At Bhubaneswar airport, I was chatting with some AI employees who were still on strike. Some of them offered me an interesting piece of information which I must share with you. Thanks to companies like Infosys setting up shop in Orissa, air traffic between Bangalore and Bhubaneswar has gone up manifold. Air India used to run a direct flight between Bangalore and Bhubaneswar. Suddenly, the direct flight service was stopped. Now, the real beneficiary is Kingfisher Red, which runs a direct flight. The employees tell me with a grin that this almost certainly happened when the de facto owner of Kingfisher Red was a member of the Parliamentary Committee on Aviation!!!

Let's all grow up guys and stop hectoring only the Air India employees just because they don’t have the power to hit back. Let's just celebrate India Shining and the good times and stop this sanctimony about accountability.


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