Shiv Sena MP ‘grounded’ for hitting Air India staffer

NEW DELHI: In an unprecedented step, Air India and all private carriers have refused to fly Shiv Sena MP Ravindra Gaikwad for assaulting an airline employee.
But the Lok Sabha member from Osmanabad in Maharashtra remained defiant and refused to apologise for repeatedly beating and trying to push down Air India officer R Sukumar from the aircraft on Thursday.
“Air India and member airlines have decided to ban this MP from flying on all our flights with immediate effect,” the Federation of Indian Airlines (FIA) said in a statement.
“We believe that exemplary action should be taken in such incidents to protect employee morale and public safety,” added FIA Associate Director Ujjwal Dey.
The Indian Commercial Pilots Association also sought an unconditional apology from Gaikwad and threatened to direct its members “not to operate any flight which has Gaikwad on board”.
The Sena leader earlier vowed to fly back to Pune but Air India cancelled his ticket.
Besides Air India, the airlines which won’t allow Gaikwad to fly as FIA members are IndiGo, Jet Airways, SpiceJet and Go Air. AirAsia and Vistara, which are not with FIA, joined them.
The decision was taken a day after Gaikwad thrashed Sukumar repeatedly with a slipper after he was forced to travel in economy class from Pune to Delhi despite holding a business class ticket.
Amid speculation that Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray had sought an explanation from Gaikwad, the MP dared Delhi Police to arrest him and also alleged that it was Sukumar who hit him first.
Air India has said it was examining the possibility of creating a ‘no fly’ list of unruly passengers.
It also lodged FIRs against Gaikwad — for assaulting a shift manager and delaying a scheduled flight to Goa.
When Gaikwad refused to de-board, Sukumar said he first requested the MP in English to get off the plane but was told to speak in Hindi.
When he began to speak in Hindi, Gaikwad flared up and hit him with his slipper. All through Thursday, Gaikwad boasted how he hit the staffer with his slipper “25 times”.
“I will not apologise. Why should I? It’s not my mistake. They should apologise first, then (we) will see.”
Gaikwad also shot off complaints to Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju and Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan demanding an inquiry into the incident.
FIA’s Dey said: “We believe an assault on any one of our employees is an assault on all of us and on ordinary law abiding citizens of our country who work hard to earn a living.”
Vistara said it was “in full solidarity” with Air India.
Gaikwad “will be barred from flying in any of our flights with immediate effect”, it said. “Disruptive and abusive behaviour by passengers is a serious issue and cannot be tolerated.”
Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju added: “Politicians are not above law.”
Delhi Police, meanwhile, registered an FIR against Gaikwad, including attempt to commit culpable homicide. — IANS