Opinion: There is an angry Indigo passenger in all of us

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Let me preface this article by saying what the Indigo passenger Sahil Kataria did was not right. Most of the readers might be aware of the Indigo incident involving a passenger slapping the pilot over the delay, but whoever is not, here is a summary.

Kataria is a toy shop owner from Delhi who was going on a honeymoon to Goa on January 15th. He boarded an Indigo flight from Delhi but apparently, the flight got delayed by a couple of hours due to fog and bad weather.

He came into the limelight when a Twitter video began circulating all over the internet in which Kataria could be seen running from the back of the aircraft and smacking the pilot making the announcement on his face. The video ends with passengers screaming seeing such scenes unfold right in front of their eyes.

Video of passenger slapping the pilot on Indigo:

Soon, people all over the internet started bashing the guy for such despicable behaviour, and rightfully so. A civil society should not accept violence as a form of disagreement. What Kataria did was wrong.

However, when you see this incident as a part of what is going on with the entirety of the Indian travel market you’d be hard-pressed not to feel a little empathic of the rage that pushed Kataria to do what he did.

Failure of Rail and Air travel in India
For the unversed, there has been a massive failure of Indian rail and air travel in the past few months. The Indian Railways, for example, all thanks to their massive PR that all political parties have become masters of, would make it seem like it is doing wonders in the rail travel department. Reality however is entirely opposite. All of the major new additions to Indian Railways like Vande Bharat, Amrit Bharat, Tejas, and others have been either failures or not as big an improvement as touted.

Vande Bharat for example is charging 5 times more than other trains that take exactly the same amount of time between two stations. Amrit Bharat train is just a new paint job that adds no value to the Indian Railways. The new railway stations are sure, shinier and equipped with more LED lights but they fail to serve the one purpose which is to take passengers from one place to another faster and more comfortably.

The last festival rush saw Indian Railways fail spectacularly as videos of passengers jumping through the windows just to get to their homes, spread like wildfire on the internet. Since then it has been a huge downfall for the Indian Railways and the Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw. The new age ministers thought they would use the internet to propagate their agenda backed by massive IT Cells. They however that the same Indian internet user who was hypnotised by swanky high-production videos and propaganda would someday be able to see through the smoke and cloud, and that day is finally here.

One of many videos that show the sorry state of Indian Railways:

For every new Indian Railway video showcasing the shininess of the Vande Bharat, there came hundreds showing a depressingly crowded 3AC coach in another Indian train. The Indian Rail passengers busted all the propaganda shared by the Rail Minister and the ruling party.

Also read: Review of Vande Bharat: Looking behind the PR

Then came air travel. With more and more people moving to the air travel, the system was bound to crash. At the onset of the winter, it eventually did. From massive flight cancellations without prior notice to keeping passengers locked into the plane for hours on the runway to making them sit on the tarmac, Indian air travel sunk to its lowest in January 2024.

Indigo passengers waiting on the tarmac:

The problem for the Indian traveler was still not the inefficiency of these systems but the fact that there was no one to take responsibility for it. When new trains are launched the Prime Minster himself goes onto the station with fanfare to wave the flag but when hundreds and hundreds of trains ply with passengers shoved like cattle nobody comes in and apologizes for it.

In 2023, the Bangalore Metro‘s new line’s opening was put on hold despite completion because the PM was busy with some other work. Imagine a city like Bangalore struggling with hour-long traffic jams and untimely completion of the Metro, still not using the system because someone could not be present to take the credit for it. Such is the Indian system!

Bangalore Metro inauguration
Bangalore Metro inauguration

Airlines in the country have a similar story. Understaffed and inefficient but still salivating for every Rupee they could make, overbook the flights and cancel them at the very last moment, and tell the passengers to come some other day. Sure they hand over the ticket price, but they cannot make up for the canceled plans that a friend had with another friend or a worker had with his family after months of working away from home. There is no one to take the responsibility for it.

Wrong reaction but understandable

So when a Kataria among us, enraged by all of this, gets up his seat and slaps the person in charge, it’s not a slap on the pilot but a slap on the system. The slap is meant for the politicians and businessmen who treat Indian people like cattle ready to be milked for every last penny that they have. The slap is a symbol of frustration among the public who after paying large sums of money for basic needs, is asked to suck up and wait. While I condemn Sahil Kataria for what he did, I also understand why he did it and I think a lot of us who have been wronged by the money-hungry politicians and businessmen running this country feel the same.

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