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Flying ban: Don’t use parliamentary privilege to cover for bad behaviour

What happened in Rajya Sabha was the convenient use of the ‘parliamentary privilege’ card to defend abominable conduct by some of its members. The sense of entitlement shown by some leaders is the reason why such extreme steps are considered. It’s time they behaved like ordinary citizens

opinion Updated: Jul 24, 2017 17:53 IST
Viju Cherian
What happened in the Rajya Sabha was the convenient use of the ‘parliamentary privilege’ card to defend abominable conduct by some of its members — conduct that should have been unequivocally condemned (Representative Photo)
What happened in the Rajya Sabha was the convenient use of the ‘parliamentary privilege’ card to defend abominable conduct by some of its members — conduct that should have been unequivocally condemned (Representative Photo)(PTI)

Last week Rajya Sabha MP and Samajwadi Party leader Naresh Agrawal raised the issue of airlines banning passengers, especially MPs, from flying. He was referring to the recent ban imposed by major airlines on two MPs — JC Diwakar Reddy of the TDP and Ravindra Gaikwad of the Shiv Sena.

Responding to Agrawal, Rajya Sabha deputy chairman PJ Kurien informed the House that airlines did not have the right to impose a flying ban on anybody. Kurien said, “Airlines are not given the authority to punish anybody.....MPs are also citizens ... if they commit a crime or mistake, the law of the land should take recourse to it.”

Kurien is spot on! It is for the courts to decide the quantum of punishment and the law of the land must take its course. The only problem is that this “course” is a long-winded one which often takes years, if not decades. And this delay is one of the reasons that embolden our netas to behave the way they do.

Moreover, by banning a passenger who has misbehaved with the airline crew, or have created a ruckus at the ticketing counter, or is a nuisance on the flight, the airline is protecting the interests of its crew (employees) and other passengers — passengers who have the paid for good service, and follow DGCA and airline rules. Thus, more than a punishment, a ban is a passenger-friendly move.

It is nobody’s argument that airlines — both private and State-owned — should discriminate against any passenger. But that’s not the point here. What happened in the Rajya Sabha is making convenient use of the ‘parliamentary privilege’ card to defend unacceptable conduct by some of its members — conduct that should have been unequivocally condemned.

Why is it that many politicians hit an air pocket or face turbulence when flying? A decade ago, a minister in Kerala’s LDF government resigned after a woman accused him of misbehaving with her on the flight. Two years ago, an MP from Bihar was alleged to have threatened crew members and refused to comply with DGCA guidelines.

It’s a sense of entitlement that makes some of our leaders behave in this manner . They feel they can get away with it. This must stop.

Rather than understanding that they have been elected to serve the people, they lord it over them. They seem to have nothing but disdain for the aam aadmi. It is this derision that is reflected when our netas refuse to stand in airline ticketing queues, demand that their luggage is carried for them, and even demand on-flight privileges they are not entitled to.

It’s a sense of exclusivity or VIP culture that is reflected here. The 2014 video of irate PIA passengers booing and sending back from boarding former Pakistani minister Rehman Malik for arriving two hours late gives you a good idea of the resentment people have towards such politicians.

It’s a pity that some of our representatives believe that they are a cut above the people. The next time an MP or MLA is flying, he/she should try standing in the queue with other passengers, be patient and follow the drill like others. It could be a humbling experience for the leader and give him/her a new perspective. It could even work to improve public opinion about them.

Today, a politician, especially an MLA or MP, standing in a queue or following the rules like any ordinary citizen is news. This is unfortunate, and should change. For that, if banning unruly flyers, including parliamentarians, will work, it should be done.

@VijuCherian