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Dear Vir Sanghvi, painting Indians as the worst due to a peeing incident is like painting all journalists corrupt due to the Radia tapes, please rethink

In 2010, Niira Radia tape controversy had broken out where at least three journalists were found allegedly hobnobbing with the lobbyist who appeared to be using journalists as brokers to secure a good deal for her clients.

On January 6, in an episode of ‘To The Point’ with Vir Sanghvi on The Print’s YouTube channel, journalist Sanghvi talked about the Air India incident where a drunk male passenger urinated on an elderly female co-passenger in November last year. In his monologue, Sanghvi mentioned that he knows only one side of the story and has not yet seen the crew’s version of the incident. Furthermore, he pointed out how airline passengers, particularly Indian passengers, misbehave during flights.

While speaking about the issue, Sanghvi said while we keep mourning the Airlines, we often fail to check ourselves in the mirror and realise that the problem lies with the passengers. “No, Airlines are not perfect… but I don’t think that’s the only problem. The real problem is us. We are the worst passengers in the world.” Sanghvi listed the problems passengers face on the flights, which are common, especially in low-cost Airlines worldwide. However, he accused Indian passengers of being the worst passengers.

From rushing to get on and off the plane to getting extra luggage in cabin baggage, Sanghvi made it appear like it is only the Indians passengers who do these things. He portrayed as if it is only the Indian passengers who shove and push while getting on off the plane. He also talked about the recent video in which Indian passengers indulged in a fistfight at a Thai Airline over a petty matter of reclined seat.

The incident in question came to light after over a month, and actions were being taken by the authorities and Airlines. He has also been banned from flying Air India for 30 days. And while unruly passenger behaviour must be dealt with strongly, it would be unfair to paint everyone with same brush and generalise all Indian passengers. And to call them ‘the worst’ is a little too elitist, but not too surprising from Sanghvi, who seems to believe that only the luxurious five star hotels in Delhi, where about 90% people could not afford to eat, serve the best food.

Interestingly, for Sanghvi, Indians are not the only passengers who have behaved badly one plane or been unruly passengers. It is far too common. A quick Google search led to these incidents – which are obviously just examples of unruly behaviour of passengers and in an ideal scenario not a reflection on people of that nationality.

In October 2022, a British Airways passenger defecated on the floor of the plane and smeared it into the seats. Moments before the flight took off, the passenger went into a fit of anger, pulled his pants down and defecated on the plane floor. He then sat on the dump and smeared his hands in it. He stood up and walked on the gallery floor while rubbing the crap-smeared hands on the seats across the aisle. The emergency services were called in, and the flight was delayed for three hours.

In April 2022, a man was arrested for allegedly masturbating four times during a flight. The culprit, identified as Antonio Sherrodd McGarity, allegedly took off his pants soon after the flight and started masturbating. When the police arrested him, McGarity allegedly claimed he did not do anything wrong and “thought it was kind of kinky”.

In December 2021, a US woman was arrested for allegedly spitting and slapping a fellow passenger. The altercation happened as the man she spat on wore the mask chin-down. Interestingly, the woman herself was seen without a mask in the viral video.

In March 2021, a 39-year-old Russian woman was tied down by her co-passengers as she was repeatedly removing her undergarments. In a medical test, it was revealed she was on drugs.

In August 2019, it was reported in a Quora post a Chinese female passenger allegedly threw a cup of boiling hot water on an Air Hostess’s face just because she could not arrange a seat as per the passenger’s choice. As per the post, the female passenger wanted to sit next to her boyfriend. The Air Hostess tried for the same, but no passenger was ready to swap seats, and the request was denied. The female passenger got angry and threw hot water on the Flight Attendant’s face. Above all, the boyfriend also joined the rant and threatened to “blow up” the plane. The incident took place 5-6 years before the post was made on Quora. Notably, Chinese passengers are known for unruly behaviour, and often Chinese tourists are treated differently for their notorious behaviour in many countries.

In November 2018, an Irish lawyer named Simone O’Broin made headlines after abusing staff on an Air India flight from India to London. She spat on a crew member and used racial slurs as she was refused alcohol. Reportedly, she was initially served three bottles of wine but refused more. She went on calling the staff “Indian money-grabbing c***” and smoked a cigarette in the toilets during the episode.

In May 2018, a Russian man was arrested at the Indira Gandhi International Airport for allegedly masturbating on a flight from Istanbul. As per reports, an Indian woman sitting next to the Russian passenger informed the crew members about the incident and was shifted to a different seat. The authorities were informed before the plane landed, and the culprit was arrested by the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF).

In July 2017, a similar incident was reported on an American Airlines flight. However, to the horror of the female passenger who witnessed the incident, she was not allowed another seat. She was forced to sit next to the person who was earlier caught masturbating. Interestingly, the man who had masturbated was sitting in the middle seat, and it was reported by the woman who was sitting in the aisle seat. The crew members moved her to another seat. However, the woman who was sitting on the window seat was sleeping during the ordeal. When she was informed about it but refused another seat. The French police arrested the man upon landing.

The way Sanghvi generalised all Indian passengers as the worst could be deemed as equal to calling all journalists corrupt and not too fond of ethics after a few journalists were accused of lobbying and planting news during the UPA era Radia tapes controversy.

In 2010, during the Congress regime, a scandal had come to the fore where journalists, including ones like Barkha Dutt, Vir Sanghvi and The Wire co-founder and Editor MK Venu, were allegedly heard hobnobbing with corporate lobbying Niira Radia. Radia was believed to be using journalists as brokers for securing favourable deals for her corporate clients from the UPA government. Vir Sanghvi had allegedly sought the lobbyist Niira Radia’s opinion on how ‘slanted’ she wanted an article to be today, hosting a news programme with the name ‘Virtuosity’.

But just because some journalists were accused of being brokers or indulging in lobbying for ministerial berths, does not mean all journalists in India do that.

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B.Sc. Multimedia, a journalist by profession.

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