Fear of flying
BJP president Nitin Gadkari and his family members had a lucky escape when the chopper in which they had just travelled crashed near Dehra Dun while returning. No casualties, but the mishap served as another grim reminder about the perils of air travel in the country. In recent weeks, planes seem to be falling out of the sky with frightening regularity. Gadkari’s helicopter mishap comes within a few weeks of the crash of an air ambulance near Delhi in a small local gale. There were no survivors.
Naturally, a series of air mishaps involving the high and mighty is causing a lot of anxiety about the safety of small aircraft, the current popular mode of transport for our powerful netas and corporate czars.
Meanwhile, the authorities are yet to wrap up investigations into the April incident in which the helicopter carrying Dorji Khandu, the chief minister of Arunachal Pradesh, crashed in the thick forests.
Is there a jinx? Many leaders, especially in the Congress, are beginning to say so. Many high-flying leaders of the party have had their lives cut off at the prime, including the likes of Madhav Rao Scindia, YSR Reddy, and the latest casualty Dorji Khandu. Punjab Congress leader Amarinder Singh, who is evidently partial to travelling by chopper, has suffered a few nasty moments himself on more than one occasion.
Six years ago, in neighbouring Haryana, another helicopter crash claimed the lives of billionaire industrialist and politician O.P. Jindal and Surinder Singh, son of former chief minister Bansi Lal.
The question is whether these small aircraft are safe enough for big leaders? Is it the aircraft or the experience of pilots who very often do not have the skills of other senior professionals? The other big issue concerns leaders who often insist on flying even when weather conditions are not ideal for their journeys. Safety norms are often thrown to the wind. It is more often the young, the energetic and those with a penchant for mass public contact who push themselves too far. Gadkari’s brush with death is likely to keep the tension simmering.
<i>Dilip Cherian is a former editor of Business India is also a bureaucracy watcher and a business analyst. Best found: firstname.lastname@example.org</i>
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