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Kamra vs Arnab: The arrogance of power wins

Bikram Vohra
Filed on January 31, 2020
Arnab, Kamra, IATA

It is a moot point whether Kamra was endangering the aircraft but he was hassling a paying passenger and deliberately causing a commotion.

For sheer bad manners and an invasion of privacy Indian comedian Kunal Kamra gets full marks for heckling TV anchor Arnab Goswami on an internal flight. Anyone viewing the video gone viral can see there is no provocation from even if one grants that a controversial celebrity like Arnab should be ready for a public barracking and celebs and public figures per se do run the risk of being harassed, there are some harsh rules in place by airline managements after ICAO and IATA had sanctioned codes of conduct for passengers. Crew have been given huge globs of arbitrary power to detain, seek arrest of or subdue and restrain any passenger causing inflight disturbance of any sort which endangers the safety of the aircraft. And the 'any sort' element makes for a very wide net.

At the 70th IATA AGM in June 2014, the aviation industry unanimously adopted rules dealing with the issue of unruly passenger behaviour. This sets out a strategy based on:

. Enhancing the international legal deterrent and promoting a wider range of penalties to encourage enforcement action.

. Working with airlines and other stakeholders to prevent unruly and disruptive passenger incidents.

IATA is urging governments to ratify the Montreal Protocol 2014 (MP14), to ensure that they have the necessary legal tools to be able to prosecute the small minority of passengers that become unruly. In addition, it is advocating for the wider use of civil and administrative penalties so that unruly passengers can be held to account for their misbehaviour.

It is a moot point whether Kamra was endangering the aircraft but he was hassling a paying passenger and deliberately causing a commotion. It does not matter if the liberty taken was a bit of relatively harmless banter, the chaff being the tax on celebrity status, Kamra exposed himself to stern action and the intervention of the crew was mandated.

Shove him back in his seat and tell him to shut up and move on. We have all been on flights where such bravado is on display.

But then it all gets crazy. Banning Kamra from four airlines when there was no violence, no physical contact, nothing to place the aircraft in danger is so highhanded you would think India is a tinpot country run by some military despot whose ego is bruised. Where does aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri get off being so highhanded and arrogant in his bullying GoAir, Air India and Spice Jet and IndiGo (where the action took place) into banning the comedian. That is not comedy, that is tragedy with these managements showing the spine of a wet noodle. What degree of corporate independence is this?

This is not the President. It is just a TV anchor and the level of harassment does not merit such a drastic response. He wasn't touched nor was Kamra drunk or disorderly. Surely, the airlines are capable of handling what was a trifling issue without the minister unilaterally calling for this grounding of an individual.

Except for the fact that it was in the air and the anchor is a government apologist in extremis such an incident probably occurs several times a day every day on trains, buses, in offices, on the playing field, between neighbours, in a variety of queues, just altercations between individuals. Would the railway minister, the home minister, the transport minister ban a person for a bit of a run in? Kamra probably has a legal case against the 3 airlines that have backlisted him without him flying them.

No grounds for this grounding, for sure.

- bikram@khaleejtimes.com



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