Gaikwad-Air India episode shows that netas who assault public servants do so out of a sense of entitlement | editorials | Hindustan Times
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Gaikwad-Air India episode shows that netas who assault public servants do so out of a sense of entitlement

Misuse and abuse of their powers by elected representatives has reached epidemic proportions across the country. It is for the top leaders of all political parties to impress on their colleagues that no one is above the law of the land.

editorials Updated: Mar 27, 2017 07:30 IST
Gaikwad
Aam Aadmi Sena activists hold roses and slippers as they protest against Shiv Sena MP Ravindra Gaikwad over his misbehaviour with an Air India staffer, at IGI Airport, Delhi, March 24. (PTI)

Member of Parliament Ravindra Gaikwad’s barbaric assault of an Air India staffer should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with his party, the Shiv Sena. The party rose to prominence in Mumbai in the 1960s by assaulting people its founder, the late Bal Thackeray, characterised as outsiders taking jobs away from the Marathi manoos. For decades, Sainiks took the law into their own hands with impunity, beating up people, vandalising their property, even digging up the pitch at Mumbai’s Wankhede stadium because Thackeray had decreed that the Pakistan cricket team should not play there. Given that the Sena has been getting away with, and even profiting from, such behaviour, it’s not surprising that Gaikwad was unrepentant, even boasting that he hit the AI employee 25 times with his footwear. But there is no way such behaviour can be justified whatever the provocation. And what was his complaint? He didn’t get to travel business class on an all-economy flight.

This sense of entitlement is, however, not confined to the Shiv Sena but is rampant across party lines among people who call themselves public servants. A couple of days after Gaikwad’s assault came the news that a former Congress MP abused a police officer in Hyderabad because he wasn’t allowed to speak to the media at a point reserved for sitting MPs and MLAs. Misuse and abuse of their powers by elected representatives has reached epidemic proportions across the country, the euphemism for it is VIP culture. We’ve become inured to images of people carrying the footwear of their leaders or to goons pushing people around in the name of ensuring respect to self-styled leaders. Government employees are the most vulnerable – from across the country come reports of so-called leaders barging into offices to abuse and slap officials purportedly for not doing their duty. More often it’s for actually having done their duty.

These so-called leaders get away with it because they can hide behind certain privileges that were put in place, as with all such things, with the best of intentions – to ensure the will of the people prevails as it should in a democracy. Elected representatives are the embodiment of the will of the people and vast powers are vested in them so that they may work without hindrance. The problem arises when these powers are seen as personal entitlement. It is for the top leaders of all political parties to impress on their colleagues that no one is above the law of the land and that, in fact, elected representatives should set an example by respecting and ensuring the sanctity of the rule of law.