Saturday, October 20, 2012

Air India : Sad Story of A Great Legacy of India !

It was the Indian business group of the Tatas who brought India to the aviation map of the world by starting the Tata Airlines way back in 1932 during the pre-independence era of the British Raj. Though this was started as a air mail service initially, it got transformed in to a full fledged public limited company named Air India way back in 1946.

Post independence, the political leaders with the socialistic mindset propagating the mixed economy culture went on with their agenda of nationalising large private enterprises such as aviation, banking etc. Thus the national carriers known as the Air India and the Indian Airlines came into existence some time in 1953 with the Government of India gradually taking control of the Tata owned Air India and bifurcating its international and domestic air services. These two carriers remained as the leading air service operators in the Indian sub continent ever since for nearly half a century thereafter as a government owned monopoly.

This long period made tremendous changes in the attitudes of the thousands of employees of the company. They had all the privileges and authority and they never considered themselves as service providers to the millions of travelling customers. Most of them acted as bull dozing government representatives enjoying too many perks and privileges. They considered their job as a kind of favor that they are doing for the underprivileged citizens rather  than courteously treating the latter as their bread providers !

This government owned aviation group  in the recent years has undergone cosmetic name changes and changes in their logos due to managerial compulsions on account of competition and cuts in budgetary supports.  They are no more the market leaders. Private airlines who are capable of offering better customer service at much lower costs have become a reality in India. For these private airline companies, the threat was only the unpredictable government policies. But they had the advantage of flexible internal management which offered dynamic and faster decision making in a fluctuating economy as compared to their government owned aviation company.

The government of India, in the past few years, seems to be confused. It is not clear whether they actually want their own airline company to operate efficiently together with the new private airlines or they want to use one against the other for short term settlement of whimsical agendas ! 

In the Nineties, the Indian government under Dr Manmohan Singh as the Finance Minister accepted the economic liberalisation policies of WTO and decided to forgo the socialistic frame work of policies that determined governmental actions previously. However, unlike in the earlier years, the Indian government no longer enjoyed absolute majority to push through major policy decisions the way they liked.

The effect was a half hearted approach which caused India to proceed as if rudderless creating confusions and complexities in the minds of all.

The present day India is in that situation.

This confusion is making India appear as a nation of corrupt people and leaders. The law enforcing agencies , the bureaucrats, the courts, the media and the public  are all confused.

No one seems to know what is right or what is wrong.

Some thing that is thought as the rightful thing is turning out to be the most sinful thing. Allegations of graft, favoritism and ill gotten wealth are causing the present day India stink !

Public sector undertaking are now manned by people with no proper briefing or policy directions. Are they there to destroy their organizations cunningly or manage them properly for the benefit of the common citizen ? They are not sure ! There are no clear cut laws, guidelines or policies.

One administrative order contradicts scores of other such orders.

What way the government companies are different from the private companies ?

How to know ? Who is there to guide ?

In this kind of a situation, those in India are bound to experience harsh experiences some time or the other. If they ever land into such problems due to their bad luck, it may not be easy for them to get out of the mess so easily. It can happen to both Indians or foreigners in the Indian soil !

Like what has happened yesterday (19th October 2012) with the Air India Express passengers travelling from Abu Dhabi to Thiruvananthapuram ! Expressing their anger over the extremely poor service the government owned air service company provided caused some of them to be branded as hijacking terrorists ! If a case is ever registered in the Indian courts, those who find their names included in the FIR are going face what is known as the ' Indian music ' for the rest of their lives ! It is the music with no composers !

Let me narrate some of my personal experiences with this airline company [I do not know which name I should use to refer to this company!] some time ago.

Once me and my family reached Delhi from Raipur for our onward travel by the same airline. At Delhi, we were in the long Q in front of the check in counters of this airline. A lady in her late forties with a grave face was managing the counter. She took my ticket and like an ever suspicious police officer quickly found out a spelling mistake in the ticket and my ID card. It was a harmless spelling error their own office made. She made it an issue and declared that we cannot travel. I showed our boarding pass counterfoils that they issued for our travel in the previous segment of our travel with the same silly typographical error. But she was not budging ! The travellers behind us were becoming impatient and the line length was increasing ! Imagine our situation by taking tickets in this airline by paying through our noses! The growing crowd caused some senior fellow from the company to the counter. He declared that there was no problem with that spelling error and she should issue the boarding passes. But the lady did not obey his decision. She kept on arguing and finally her superior himself issued the boarding passes. Imagine the commotion this one lower level employee created !

Yet on another occasion I was on a flight from Delhi to Raipur via Nagpur. At Nagpur, the pilot refused to fly us to Raipur citing some silly technical reasons. A well known politician and an ex Chief Minister of the Madhya Pradesh state too was a passenger who got stranded at Nagpur. After 5 long hours of arguments and counter arguments the airline finally arranged a shabby bus for taking the stranded passengers to Raipur by road.

This kind of experiences from this airline have been a very normal thing for this airline. The ground staff of this company many times behave like ruffian police officers in white uniform. At times I have observed them too liberal to entertain the passengers in some hotels of their choice incurring huge expenditure.

When some of the private airline companies adopted the flexible airfare policy which made air travel an affordable one for the average Indian, it was this government airline's top management with due support from their political bosses that played such nasty games which forced such customer friendly companies to wind up their operations ! 

Through out its history, this government airline company have been charging the highest price for its air tickets. Since the majority of the air travellers who travel by this air line are doing so only because they have no other choice are paying such high prices. They keep cursing this  company , its employees and its management every time they have to shell out huge sums for such hopeless service ! The government many time forces its officers and staff to travel by this airline by paying high charges. Effectively this amounts to transfer of government money from one department to the other ! 

What they (the Indian public) fail to understand is the millions of loss this company keep on making even after they charge the highest prices in the world ! Coupled with it the public hear the news about the pilots of this government airline taking the highest and unimaginable salaries and that too some of the privileged ones without doing any flying at all !

Here the government has to be decisive. They should clear their mind on the future course firmly without dilly dallying on the issue. If they cannot manage it well, then decide to privatise it as early as possible. It should be remembered that the government had done such privatising earlier. If the huge number of employees are what prevents privatisation, close it down permanently and re-appoint those who are useful with new terms and conditions !

But the moot question is the not privatisation or nationalisation ! It is the question of having proper policies and laws. Only the law makers can do it !

But if the law makers themselves do not have the competency to do the work they are entrusted with then no one can save India. Only the public can do it. For that the public have to think in unison. They should learn the fundamentals of choosing their representatives who can do good for them !

If they cannot do it, then perhaps democracy is a costly luxury for them.

That was what a general of a neighboring country of Indian root declared some years ago !

Whatever be it, the story of Air India alias Indian alias Air India Express alias Indian Airlines is a sad story for all in India !

[View the linked list of all Blogs of the Author Here ! ]

1 comment:

  1. I feel AI has reached a level where Govt can't handle it, it should be handed over to private sector and all the unions of AI pilots/employees to be strictly controlled / educated about required services, then the possibilites of improving of services is quite high. If not then this type of drama will continue and every year we will see strike from AI employees.


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