destination india

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

flights of fantasy

It seems that nine private airlines from India have placed orders to buy 250 aircraft – the intention is to give the traveler a better option to reach his destination faster. Undercurrents are probably at play – power struggle between the railways and the aviation sectors.

In this context, a recent cartoon in one of the leading papers expresses it all – an aircraft waits for take off, its body is decorated with ads of biscuits, detergent soaps, cough mixtures, agarbattis and other such products. Passengers climb the ladder with large pumpkins on their heads; bedding tucked under their arms, at the bottom of the ladder is a vendor sells snacks. A broad hint that, in order to make flying affordable to the masses, those hot tasty snacks will soon be things of the past; probably even the tray of lozenges will be missing. Further economy in the form of less air hostesses and stewards will also be on the cards – after all, if eatables are not served, why lug extra persons on board? Those seats may just as well be up for sale!

It was a wonderful cartoon – a real life presentation of how our skies are planned to be invaded. Travelers are overjoyed at the fare cutting exercises – one airline even offers one-rupee fares on a select number of tickets every day: one rupee plus the Rs 221.00, as mandatory and unavoidable charges. The inner panels of the aero plane can carry advertisements that will compensate for the reduced fares, what you lose on the fares you make up on the ad revenue. It will ensure that happiness is spread all around!

A point for consideration is why such enthusiasm is absent in other areas? These have never featured in the manifestos of any political party but receive wonderfully preferential treatments. Those who want to connect each and every corner of the country know that existing facilities are grossly inadequate; linking places of worship with large tourist destinations is difficult. Even then, they try to achieve the impossible. As it is, the existing aircraft appear to be under utilized and uneconomical, how then can the additional 350 survive? Can it be expected that by the time these are inducted, airport facilities will improve, as also associated infra structure like good motorable roads that link airports with the city proper?

In addition, a large number of training establishments are mushrooming to cash in on this so-called boom. They want to groom boys and girls to take up careers in the airline industry. We have seen ads on TV depicting how girls, with dark skins apply lotions to improve the color of their skins and join the elite brigade of air hostesses. But, with cheap flying on the cards, where do the hopefuls go?

There was a proposal to link the major rivers to ensure better distribution of the precious commodity called water; it is shelved as being not feasible. But we do want to lay pipelines to bring gas from far off places.

We really are a topsy turvy nation.

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