Air India peeing incident mars image of Tata Group; time to police airlines

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By Our Special Correspondent

New Delhi, January 8: An inebriated man had peed on a senior citizen woman during an international Air India flight in late November last year, and the authorities swung into action in the first week of January after the complaint of the victim went viral on social media platforms. Tata Sons Chairman N Chandrashekaran issued a statement on Sunday that the response of the Air India “fell short of addressing the situation the way it should have been”.

Chandrashekaran also said that the incident was a personal anguish. He also stressed that “Air India’s response should have been swifter”. However, Chandrashekaran’s statement has also come way late in the day, for the peeing incident has exposed the woeful lack of operating standards in the airlines.

The government had divested its ownership of the Air India last year, which went back to Tata Sons, which was the owner of the ‘Maharaja’ before it was nationalised. The complaint of the victim on Air Sewa portal clearly revealed that the Air India crew and the captain sought to broker a settlement between the accused and the victim and clearly not reported the matter to the police, as the incident was a criminal offence.

The police now swung into action and the accused has been sent to 14-day of judicial study after he was apprehended from Bengaluru. The accused reportedly sought to rationalise the incident, claiming that he had been drunk, as if a drunkard has a license to commit crime. While the management of the Tata Sons stands compromised for not changing the work culture of Air India even after one year of taking the ownership, the government is also seen to be wanting in making the policy changes to deal with such situations.

Air rage is now a common incident. A man was thrashed by a group of passengers in a Thai Airways flight from Bangkok to Kolkata, and the action followed only when the video went viral. There appear suggestions that the law enforcement agencies will act only when the videos of the incidents would go viral on the internet. This is clearly a recipe for law lagging behind the reality.

While the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) urgently needs to work on codifying the rules to lay down standard operating procedures for airlines, the time may have come for policing the air passengers for preventive measures and also safety of the passengers.

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