Indian PM Narendra Modi can surely do without some of his foot-in-mouth ministers and their ridiculous statements. The latest to join the bandwagon is the civil aviation minister Ashok Gajapathy Raju. The minister, who is also a heavy smoker, not only justified carrying match-boxes on flights, but even bragged that being a minister, he is not frisked and hence could save his lighters and matchboxes.
Very funny Mr Minister, but please restrict your silly jokes to within the confines of your drawing room, and do not brag about it in the open. Certainly not when aviation security is a huge concern the world over, what with even the airplane pilots emerging as a new security threat.
There already is a huge heartburn over the VIP status this country affords to far too many people, mostly undeserving. Being elected members, thereby being 'sevaks' of the common man, ministers are at the top of this list. It's a different matter that once they are elected to provide governance to the people, to improve the quality of life of the common man, these elected 'sevaks' go on to become our rulers instead, where rules are applicable to all others except themselves.
However, as one has been repeating increasingly these days, times have changed. Phone cameras have made even an ordinary man into a potential investigative journalist. And with the growing relevance and importance of the social media, the common man even has the platform to propagate all this, sometimes even more successfully than the traditional media could. In fact, often the mainstream media relies on clips and pictures captured by these 'citizen journalists' to raise an important matter of public concern. Not surprisingly, several in the public eye are reportedly taking lessons on how not to get caught out.
Imagine then this minister bragging about what is clearly a threat to aviation safety and adding most shamelessly, and thoughtlessly, that "you can't hijack a plane with a matchbox," and that "I haven't come across any incident worldwide where a matchbox had led to any threat."
Just to refresh this ignoramus' memory, the ban on matchsticks was imposed after Richard Reid, the shoe bomber tried to light an explosive in his shoes on a flight in December, 2001. This was post the 9/11 bombings.
Dear Minister, a matchbox can light a fire, which can set an aircraft on fire. You may not realize, but it can potentially be an even bigger threat than a hijack. Perhaps, if you took your job seriously, or had any respect for the nameless security officers who spend sleepless nights to ensure that our skies are safe, you would not have uttered such nonsense.
The least you can do, Mr Minister, is to apologise to the common man of this country. Let those who elect you get the confidence that the minister in charge of civil aviation is serious about his job. Breaking rules and setting a bad example is certainly not what they expect from you. And the apology should come irrespective of whether the PM censures you even more strongly.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author's own.