Thursday, March 31, 2011
(Daily Mail pic showing former British PM Gordon Brown)
In India, this is something we are used to and used to giving in, almost as we would bow to kings and queens in medieval times. With citizens of other democracies, the reaction can be a little different.
Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown came under fire after his entourage tried to bump a heavily pregnant woman from business class on an international flight. It happened at Oman, when passengers on a British Airways flight were told they would have to move to a lower class because of an `overbooking' problem'. The story appeared on Daily Mail but strangely cannot be found on the newspaper's website anymore, at least when I last checked !
The pregnant woman's husband moved from business to premium economy and other passengers from premium economy were moved to economy and some, apparently off the flight altogether. The story came to light because the woman, seven months pregnant, refused to budge. She also got a photograph taken which is circulating on the web.
The Indian Way
The passengers of course don't know how lucky they are. In India, quite likely, the sten-gun toting guards of a much lesser politician or real estate developer would have lined up the passengers against a wall and threatened to shoot them. Possibly they wouldn't have carried out that threat because of the mess it would create in a public place. But surely they would rough up.
A friend and a well known Mumbai politician were driving a few weeks ago to a concert in a Mumbai suburb when their car got shoved aside by a real estate developer's motorcade. The politician was travelling like you and me, ie minus the red light and motorcade. He was shocked. I understand he tried to make a few calls to protest but got nowhere. This happens all the time in the world's largest democracy.
Roads are the one place where we all meet, till we retreat to our fortresses, towers or slums as the case maybe. So be prepared for your rights to be trampled at will, if only to temporarily make way for a greater being. Our inability to protest this amazes me. It does not amaze me that elected representatives and thus `servants' of the electorate get away. They will, til we redefine the relationship between ordinary citizens and politicians and the rich and powerful.
Only If I Had The Choice
There is no difference between the three categories, often. Note now former Telecom Minister A Raja spends quality jail time alongside Shahid Balwa of DB Realty, a `leading' Mumbai builder. The latter is charged with bribing the former. I am willing to bet that in good times, both exercised their rights that flow to this class by shoving aside anyone who obstructed their convoys. Like politician Raj Thackeray's entourage did last week in Goa.
Here are a cross section of views. The first is Jawahar on the site which carried the Daily Mail story. "Hey BA, you seem more like our Nepal Airlines Corporation. I thought they bumped people off the flight to make way for politicos only in the airlines of the 3rd world countries. Cannot believe you do that too."
And another one from a Sir John in Australia, "This is just typical of the so-called UPPER-CRUST. And that CRUST is made up of all sorts of persons, who think they can have it over what they call and treat as 'DROSS" or 'THE PLEBS", who this CRUST is supposed to honnor, protect, serve, and thank for, for having been selected to do so !!"
Incidentally I used to be a regular British Airways flier. I stopped some years ago when they bumped me down from Premium Economy without reason. And never responded or compensated me for the loss. Obviously I found better airlines to fly. Unfortunately, I cant do the same with our roads.