Rogue legislators must mend ways

The egregious sight of Shiv Sena MP Ravindra Gaikwad beating up an elderly Air India staffer with sandals in the aircraft is a shameful reflection of our times. The powerful not only flaunt their position and privilege but also show the people that they are their masters, though they have won these positions with a promise to serve the society. The scenes of assault on the staffer that went viral caused outrage all over the country but the MP was least concerned and bothered. Not only was he unrepentant but was also boastful and arrogant, and claimed that he hit the man 25 times. He was rude and discourteous to others as well. All this was for no reason, although, even with a reason, a physical attack on a person is unjustifiable. The MP thought himself too important to travel economy class like others in an aircraft which had no higher class. A man who travelled third class in trains by choice lived in another world and in another era, and it would be futile to remember him now. 

Gaikwad is a serial offender. Two years ago, he had pushed a chapati into the mouth of a fasting Muslim caterer in the Maharashtra Sadan in Delhi over a minor issue. There are many others like him among the people’s representatives. Last month, a Kerala MLA slapped a canteen boy working in the legislators’ hostel for bringing his food late. There are other cases of misconduct, bad language and physical violence, too. Such conduct is part of the flourishing VIP culture which privileges power over rights and duties and exempts ministers, MPs, MLAs and their ilk from the common obligations of life in society. It is beneath their dignity to wait and be seen in a queue. They don’t travel without beacon lights, sirens and security. The inconvenience caused to the public is the measure of their status. Decades of democracy have not softened the feudal mindset, and the arrogance of power and the sense of unaccountability have only grown.

Air India, perhaps emboldened by the public response, has filed an FIR against the rogue MP. It has decided not to fly him again. Other members of the Federation of Indian Airlines have also decided to bar him. The police should pursue the case against the MP and the airlines should not dilute their resolve, even when pressure is exerted on them later. The MP should be made to suffer the consequences of his action. His party and Parliament also have a responsibility to take action against him. Gaikwad is a disgrace to democracy and their inaction is wrong.

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