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India's 'fake' pilots

Soutik Biswas | 04:00 UK time, Thursday, 17 March 2011

Airplane in India

Is it safe to fly in India? On the face of it, yes. One of the world's fastest growing aviation markets - nearly 50 million passengers flew domestically last year, up 18% from 2009 - has a sturdy safety record. Last year's Air India crash at Mangalore was the first in nearly 10 years. But some recent disquieting developments have rattled air passengers and raised serious doubts about the quality of the people who are flying what most believe are reasonably well-maintained machines.


Federal aviation authorities say they will be checking the licences of some 4,000 pilots flying commercial aircraft after allegations that at least four were found to have fake documents. Two have been arrested for using fake certificates to obtain licences.

The first, a pilot from the perpetually ailing, state-owned Air India, apparently fabricated his qualifications. The other, who was arrested last week after damaging the aircraft during landing, was found to have used fake documents to get her licence. The licences of the other two pilots are apparently riddled with irregularities, and both have reportedly disappeared.

According to one report by news channel CNN-IBN, a pilot who was caught cheating during a flying test in the US in 2000 and denied a licence, got a commercial licence on his return to India by forging his qualifications and has since been working as a senior pilot with Air India. Air India spokesman Kamaljeet Rattan would not discuss that particular case with the BBC. But he tells me the airline is scrutinising the papers of a dozen pilots. "It's nothing very serious, and not at all scary," he says. "These are routine checks."

Senior aviation officials echo the views of Mr Rattan. "Fake licences are very few so there is no need to panic," says Bharat Bhushan, India's most senior civial aviation official. But there are suspicions that pilots cannot be faking their papers without some inside help. And aviation analysts believe this is the time to crack down. "This is a very serious issue," Kapil Kaul of Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation tells me. "When pilots are faking their certificates it is a criminal offence. It points to a systemic failure. Airline operators also cannot absolve themselves of responsibility. They need to have more vigorous checks. And decisive action needs to be taken against the pilots."

As if all this was not enough, last week the government announced that 57 pilots reporting for duty had tested over the limit for alcohol in the past two years. All were prevented from joining their aircraft. The issue was raised in parliament - according to a parliamentary document I have seen, the pilots were employed by every leading private airline as well as Air India. Ten were sacked; others had their licences suspended or were taken off the flight roster.

The airlines have been keeping a low profile on this - like Mr Rattan they want to play down the severity of the problems. By and large Indians appear to have been reassured by the government announcement. There's been no public outcry. But concerns about the quality of some pilots have been around for a while. Last August former civil aviation minister Praful Patel was asked in parliament whether commercial pilots had been drunk on duty. He replied there had been no such incident. Another MP actually asked Mr Patel this year whether "under-trained pilots are flying commercial flights... risking the lives of hundreds of passengers". Again the minister denied any such possibility.

Although the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA)is a respected and tested regulator, experts say that breakneck growth has presented regulatory challenges across the industry from the airline operators to their government overseers. The number of domestic air passengers is expected to grow 9%-10% annually to more than 150 million by 2020. India now has some 15 airline operators with a fleet of 400-plus planes. The number of airports has shot up to 82 from 50 in a decade. Pilots faking papers is not unheard of. In China 200 pilots were found with fake papers in 2008, according to the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation. The Philippines also faced a similar problem. India now has the world's fourth largest number of domestic fliers after the US, China and Japan. Many here are hoping such growth does not come at the expense of passenger safety.

Comments

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  • 1. At 03:52am on 17 Mar 2011, Pulkit wrote:

    I for one am confused by this article. At the very beginning, the article asks "is it safe to fly in India?" and all throughout the article, you seem to push the notion that 'something' is 'wrong' here and needs to be fixed. I can't really pinpoint what's wrong here. Here's what I gathered from your article:

    A few pilots were caught when they didn't fly the aircraft properly and when their documents were reviewed (a seemingly routine check?). Good. Then, a few pilots that were too drunk weren't allowed to fly their aircraft. Good. The flying authority has many checks and balances in place and has had a remarkably good safety record. Good. The incident last year was the first in 10 years. Good.

    Am I missing something? Or are you really out of things to write about? The measures you are using here to doubt the safety of India's aviation industry can be applied to the U.S., Canada or the U.K. as well. There have been similar incidents here too...then why the pessimism for India?

    This wouldn't have been so bad if you had lauded them for doing a good job (for a change). All of your articles are really aimed at highlighting the problems in India and how not enough is being done. While I'd like to argue that, that makes you a bit of a whiner, I can't deny the seriousness of the problems you report about or how passionate you are about these issues so kudos to you for that but hey, if you are going to mention nice things about the aviation industry then at least have a conclusion that supports your data. This is a needlessly overly pessimistic article about an issue that doesn't exist (yet).

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  • 2. At 08:24am on 17 Mar 2011, altruist77 wrote:

    Well it is not surprising... I am from India and I know that the roots of corruption has reaches in all government offices and so called independent govt funded organizations. Every department is corrupt. Even the departments that have been established to regulate the normal functioning of other departments ( such as the DGCA, TRAI, Police, etc) and general public life are corrupt. While it is wonderful to see that all this is public news and that the public are getting a taste of the symptoms of this cancer, I don't think this is unexpected. Let us all fight this disease when it is at a curable stage before the entire system collapses.

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  • 3. At 08:36am on 17 Mar 2011, indus wrote:



    As anything is possible in India and in light of fake pilots, I have decided to move around by car during my next trip to India in September, the second in 20 years.

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  • 4. At 09:59am on 17 Mar 2011, NIls wrote:

    I have been flying with Kingfisher on domestic flights in India a few times and they seem like a good quality airline. But of course new aricraft etc. doesn't tell you anything about the quality of their pilots. You can only hope...!

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  • 5. At 10:24am on 17 Mar 2011, intruder2010 wrote:

    In india we not only have fake pilots , we also have lots of fake doctors. Some of the fake doctors are ex medical students who couldnt even pass the exam after several attempts.

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  • 6. At 12:16pm on 17 Mar 2011, maint123 wrote:

    Is this blog being terminated due to the financial mess BBC is in ?
    If not , why ?
    Kerela's main food ingredient is of Biswas's ilk.

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  • 7. At 12:17pm on 17 Mar 2011, maint123 wrote:

    I suggest checking the educational qualifications of most of the journalists of BBC.

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  • 8. At 1:14pm on 17 Mar 2011, Squiz of Islington wrote:

    Most of the Indian programmers and their companies are rubbish too. TarTar Consultancy in particular were so bad they changed their name a la Arthur Anderson.

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  • 9. At 1:31pm on 17 Mar 2011, PNS72 wrote:

    I am a frequent flyer on domestic Indian routes. There should be zero tolerance for drunk pilots whereas in India there looks to be considerable leniency as only 11 have lost their jobs (and may be they will pitch up at other airlines on fake documentation basis - very scary!!).

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  • 10. At 1:38pm on 17 Mar 2011, Rajiv wrote:

    In response to comment #1 by Pulkit: I think this is a timely and good article which examines in a balanced way a serious issue affecting a major industry in India. I really can't understand what is so confusing about it!
    "An issue that doesn't exist"?! Are you waiting for some crashes?
    And why are people quick to compare with what is happening in Britain or the US, in a defensive way? So if it happening in the UK, then would it be all right for it to happen in India?
    The objective is not to find fault, but to raise awareness about a serious problem and encourage an intelligent discussion about it. We can do so only if we have some humility, and are not defensive.
    And, if you want to read only "feel good" articles, may be you should read some gov't or Congress party reports about their achievements.

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  • 11. At 1:46pm on 17 Mar 2011, Pras_n_Srini wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 12. At 2:14pm on 17 Mar 2011, Smiffie wrote:

    India is a byword for corruption, in India you can buy any qualification that you want. Here in Britain we worry about fake doctors.

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  • 13. At 5:38pm on 17 Mar 2011, Arun wrote:

    Mr. Soutik Biswas - you claim to be the "online correspondent for BBC News in India". When I look at your blog history, I cant find even a single blog that has something positive to say about India. I understand that there are lots of bad things happening in India and you are probably busy covering those, but, the fact that you always manage to portray ONLY the negatives of this great country indicates (to me at least) that you are unfit to be " the online correspondent for BBC News in India".

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  • 14. At 6:06pm on 17 Mar 2011, Essar wrote:

    In any business, there are multitude of business processes. Air India must have one for hiring in their Human Resources department. However, the hiring with fake qualification begs the following questions:

    * Is the hiring process a formal one with necessary checks and balances?
    * Have they identified where things can go wrong?
    * Have they put in controls to mitigate the risks of things going wrong?
    * Do their business process ALSO provide evidence of the effectiveness of such controls?

    Having done some work with Indian businesses, this reader knows first hand that the above is NOT done often. Lack of diligence in such crucial matters as Pilot hiring will ONLY invite crisis - as it clearly has.

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  • 15. At 6:09pm on 17 Mar 2011, ramsrikanth wrote:

    The article is well written and is more or less unbiassed.A point to be noted is that things that are not right are being addressed and there is scope for improvement but nothing to alarm. All transportation issues including the USDOT HAZMAT transportation officials look at number of incidents per year and the percentage.

    DGCA is the authority that ensures the person is qualified and so on. As in every department in every country there are lapses. Things should not be blown out of proportion for a system that is working fine. I fly a lot in US and many a times I end up comparing with the smooth landing I have experienced while travelling in India.

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  • 16. At 6:10pm on 17 Mar 2011, Essar wrote:

    As Arun and a few others (past and present) commented about what they believe to be a bias in Soutik Biswas`s blog, this reader has the following to say:

    Please challenge the credibility of the message and not the credibility of the messenger!!

    A message has to stand on its own merit - regardless of what the source is.

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  • 17. At 6:11pm on 17 Mar 2011, poda_mone wrote:

    Cool down Arun. Negative about India sells, especially in US and UK, and Biswas knows that well. The people in "developed countries" love to hear about our poverty, slums, snake charmers, bullock carts etc. Even our own kids are those stereo types.

    But you have to admit, he is pointing out something worth a look early on.

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  • 18. At 6:43pm on 17 Mar 2011, Arun wrote:

    @Essar and @poda_mone : I completely agree with this article and the fact that some action has to be taken regarding the issue before it is too late. In fact I very much appreciate that Soutik has brought this issue to the world's notice and hopefully, this will put some pressure on India to act on it as several foreigners (tourists and others) fly Indian domestic airlines.

    What I find very odd is that the messenger (Soutik) finds the positive stories (from India) unworthy of reporting to the world.

    @Essar : Why should I not challenge the credibility of the messenger? I stick with BBC because of its professional, neutral and unbiased reporting. IMHO, Soutik does not have any of these traits that a BBC reporter is expected to have and hence unfit for BBC. You are free to have a different opinion.

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  • 19. At 7:55pm on 17 Mar 2011, Phew wrote:

    Another point these airline companies need to be aware of is not to put passengers life at stake by making their pilots over work because the airline company wants to save money or the pilots want to earn more money.

    #13 Arun do not blame Biswas , he has been forced into this job and it is not the job he wanted as Biswas himself says "My dream was once to work as a music journalist for Rolling Stone magazine. Or a writer on Mad magazine. Instead, I ended up covering the shenanigans of politicians and their ilk, among other things. But then, with apologies to Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, you can't always get what you want."

    Biswas also says "I joined the BBC some six years ago, and have travelled around the subcontinent covering many stories. But, in the end, no story is more fascinating than India's and how the world's biggest and most raucous democracy is evolving and facing up to its many challenges. The blog is also an effort to try to make sense of the vast changes sweeping the country."

    His cribbing articles reflects what he says Biswas calls his home country democracy RAUCOUS and that he is still trying to make sense of the vast changes. Hopefully after making sense, not only negatives but positives of India will be reflected in his writings.

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  • 20. At 01:44am on 18 Mar 2011, Jay wrote:

    Dear Arun and few others. Just name a SINGLE issue that India rightly deserve some praise? Anything under the sun is on the table- be it science/technology, nature/environment, medical practice, civil governance, judiciary, education - just anything.
    Just be rational and logical. Whatever you say, support that with facts and figures.
    Many people are more interested in the image than understanding and accepting the reality . They feel that it is their moral responsibility to support India for each and every reason. Mainly the NRIs and so-called "elite" Indians think that their social recognition is intimately tied with that of India (particularly when they live abroad) among foreigners of their host country.
    They do not have the wisdom and courage to understand and/or accept why are we so pathetic in almost EVERY aspect of life, as a nation. Why almost every Indian will que in front of some foreign embassies, if given a chance. And if denied (visa or residence permit) they will curse those foreign countries and chant "Jai Hind"). They do not understand that to clean a society we need crows and vultures like Sawtik and few others (like Binayak Sen) who have the guts, ability to think and talk straight, than those cuckoos who probably can sing sweet during spring (and fly off when the weather is little rough), but does not clean the garbage.

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  • 21. At 02:34am on 18 Mar 2011, Jay wrote:

    When you watch superficially, analyse it without depth, you will find so many great things happening in India. Surely India is doing great for some people. That greatness is limited to few people only while we ALL pay a heavy price for that. In reality, their prosperity is the cause for many others to suffer more. We (who are policy makers and movers and shakers of Indian society and mostly benefited from the economic liberalization) warmly greeted the western style, so-called free market economy but never really even tried to develop a matching judiciary, law enforcement and civil governance. That's why we often hear, 'do you know who am I"!
    Those people fail to understand why majority of Indians do NOT have ANY sense of justice and honesty, when even they are professors in a university or Cxx in a company abroad, OR why India is such rich country with so many poor people and a third world country- irrespective of rise in GDP or per capita income or increase in number of shopping malls or availability of western products in local stores.
    One of my IIT-IIM trained friends, who also worked in a very famous company in India for 7 years recently admitted (after a long discussion) that, "the success in any field in India, be it technology or management or research or politics depends on how best you accept corruption and follow established norms (which is also defined as "reality" or "practicality" by many) and use those for your own benefit. The day you try to do something different, do the same thing differently or do something novel, you are finished". That discussion mainly came from his initial inability to accept the fact (when I told him) that, "India (along with China) is among the least innovative countries in the world".

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  • 22. At 02:58am on 18 Mar 2011, rusrus wrote:

    This comment has been referred for further consideration. Explain

  • 23. At 03:41am on 18 Mar 2011, Graham wrote:

    I have been coming to India for the past fifteen years and staying for many months at a time. Being a westerner our open attitude to things is quite different in many ways, so much so that I have on many occasions been told quite forcefully "The problem with you people is that you tell the truth - no-one wants to hear the truth, they only want to hear what 'we' say is the truth". Yet the very same people complain considerably about the lack of honesty in India.

    If the Indian people are guilty of anything it is 'pretending that everything is OK' because that is the easiest way.

    Southik Biswas is only telling the truth and all praise to him for doing just that. It is only by forcing people to confront these issues that change is made possible.

    I hope that he continues and that something positive can come out of it for a country that I and millions of other foreigners love.

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  • 24. At 04:27am on 18 Mar 2011, Rovan wrote:

    Are you implying that wing commander Hanuman of Ayodhya Airlines was also a "fake" pilot?

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  • 25. At 05:18am on 18 Mar 2011, Inam wrote:

    My fellow Indians and friends who are so critical of Soutik need not feel so threatened by a piece which can hardly be considered "critical", thought provoking maybe. Like tooth cleaning or examining of any other orifices and cavities of the body, this piece may seem painful and shaming because it is done in front of the whole world, however I would argue just like a teeth cleaning from a dentist that makes teeth stronger and diagnose and prevent many cancers. The democratic examination of a nations major emerging industry is indeed something that requires very close scrutiny. An investigative piece of journalism carried over a period of months with hidden camera's and actual applications for a pilots license is what is needed and required for a close scrutiny. Soutik Biswas simply writing and bringing focus to an emerging problem can hardly be considered anything but patriotic, honorable and rightful thing to do. For people looking for positive stories about India to feel good or somehow bask in its glory, listen to your leaders in India, according to whom we in India have not done a single thing wrong since the country's Independence but yet we have African levels of starvation and HIV infection rates, what good has all that positive bellowing brought to India, non; shallow feel goodness perhaps. You want to hear something good about India, you can simply say this "a country where people are not ashamed to discuss its weakness and corruption so we can change for the better." Something Soutik has been doing all aloong. Please keep up the good work Sir, your country needs you today more than ever and you make a fine example for journalism in India as well.

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  • 26. At 05:43am on 18 Mar 2011, Pulkit wrote:

    @ Rajiv: You are completely mis-interpreting my point. My confusion stems from the fact that Soutwik states explicitly that the DGCA has a good safety record and India in general has enjoyed a very sturdy safety record over the past decade...isn't that a good thing here? Is it wrong for me to assume that something 'right' is being done here by the Indian authorities? Not only that, the very fact that these pilots got caught basically proves my point - the system in place isn't flawed. That's something commendable (going by the statistics anyway and that is the whole point of the article) and they should be appreciated for having a system that works. Instead, the author pushes forward the notion that there is something about to go horribly wrong. But how? I'm not saying anything cannot go wrong but all I'm saying is that the DGCA and the Aviation ministry have been doing a great job so far and putting a little trust in their efforts won't hurt. This article however, suggests otherwise.

    Secondly, by citing the U.K., all I was trying to get across was the message that flaws exist everywhere. The whole purpose of citing these so called 'developed' countries was to prove that even with similar loopholes and flaws in place, these countries have had a pretty good safety record and the same is applicable to India. The whole point being that India has a safety record comparable to that of these three nations and that is a good thing! All of these countries have flaws and loopholes that people exploit but the fact that these exploiters are being caught is what makes me trust the system - isn't that the whole basis of our democratic society anyway?

    And that's what I find wrong with the article. It is a little too serious and a little too harsh on an issue that doesn't even exist. Sure, it is great to raise awareness about this - that something could 'potentially' go wrong but don't you think it'd be more appropriate to report on the existing issues in India (or make a positive statement once in a while about the second fastest growing economy in the world? esp. when the data suggests so?) instead of reporting about a problem that doesn't really exist? Hence the first line of my previous comment: "are you really out of things to write about?" All I'm saying is that the author's being overly pessimistic about the issue - trust the authorities a little, if they've had a good record in the past then trusting them a little isn't really a bad idea. And this has nothing to do with the BJP or Congress being in power or their brochure of achievements. I couldn't care less for either but facts are facts, the DGCA has done well under both the BJP and Congress and hence, they are worthy of a little trust from the public. And it's this kinda trust that India really needs at the moment, the whole bloody place is mired with scandals right now...

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  • 27. At 06:00am on 18 Mar 2011, Pulkit wrote:

    @ Jay: Cheer up a little. India is as pathetic as any other country in this world. And there isn't a single thing that's good about India? Wow...either you are just too deluded or you wrote that just for the sake of argument.

    Nonetheless, I'll just establish one simple fact here: India is perfectly normal for what it is.

    India, at present, is a country that is experiencing industrialization and modernization - a lot like the other 70% of this world and the problem the country faces aren't unique to India. In fact, most countries with a similar economic condition behave in the exact same manner. There is a huge gap between the haves and haves-not - that's true for India, that's true for Mexico, that's true for Brazil and that's true for the whole of Africa. Unlike us however, most of these other countries have learned to appreciate what they're getting. These countries all share the same problems - a sizable chunk of the population is poor, infrastructure is old, corruption is rampant etc. India isn't extraordinarily pathetic here. It's completely normal for a country going through this phase (and even a little better perhaps, as explained later). England went through something very similar when it modernized, so did the United States and so did the USSR. India isn't special because it has all these problems. As a country, it has a lot to offer, there are many amazing things about the country and few would debate that. True enough, there is a huge set of problems that the government is just not interested in dealing with at the moment but for all its problems, India isn't really that bad a place.

    In fact, it is a little better. A Brazil or a Mexico will firmly align itself with anyone that really benefits it - India won't. Back in the 70s when we were close to the Russians, India still maintained a relatively high degree of foreign independence. Brazil and Mexico go running after the U.S., China and Japan because that boosts their economy - we don't. It is this indifference that really separates India from the rest. The country as a whole doesn't have one strength it likes to focus upon, in fact it is developing into a complex democratic society that has several strengths and that is a very good thing in my opinion. It is branching in my different directions and that'll be great in the long run. Kudos to the India media as well here. The privatization of the media in India has made it incredibly powerful (and exploitive). The media plays a huge role in highlighting many issues that the country faces. This is one great asset that most countries don't posses.

    Don't get me wrong, I love what Soutwik's blog is all about. It is really about bringing the issues forward in an honest manner but in this article, he's just overly pessimistic.

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  • 28. At 09:43am on 18 Mar 2011, Nils77 wrote:

    This is very typical of any blog or article where India is mentioned.
    Seems like the word corruption is only a few words away from anything exciting or good about the progress India is making in terms of increased international reputation or as a market leader.
    This is the blight and problem that India has and will always have when entering emerging markets and trying to establish it self as its on entity as a developed country. Airlines, I.T, export\import anything that will progress India as a country going forward will always have the tanited image and experiance of corruption dragging it back....

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  • 29. At 2:48pm on 18 Mar 2011, Jay wrote:


    Dear Pulkit (#27), I appreciate your response. No one can deny that almost every country in the world is “progressing”, compared to its own past. In this sense we can divide “progress” in two different aspects:
    1. Progress in time scale- a) in comparison to its own past, b) in comparison to its relative raking among other nations and its competitors.
    2. Progress as a NATION (which is totally different as compared to individuals)

    As I mentioned earlier, India (or almost any country in the world) has “progressed”, at least in economic terms. After all we all are using and exploiting our resources (mainly natural and also human). That is bound to have an impact on us. In more ‘developed” countries that impact is more evenly distributed among its people and among others it is benefitting more to individuals (rather than the country, which is mostly the case for India). Here we also need to remember that we or the earth do not have infinite resources, as “growth” based traditional economic models think. There is a huge demand from many established economists to recognize that limitation and proceed towards more sustainable models of development. You can have an idea what I mean to in this post.

    Now coming to India’s relative ranking in the world. I hope you know that India’s global ranking in almost any field is deteriorating fast. Take the examples of some very basic parameters to judge any country- civil governance and bureaucracy (India has the worst bureaucracy in asia and the world); Quality of public hygiene and health is comparable to many poorest sub-Saharan African countries; poverty is among the worst in the world, in literacy we are much behind many less (compared to us) economically developed countries (e.g Vietnam, Zambia, Tanzania etc), our global ranking and quality of research is deteriorating fast since 1985 (since systemic data collection started), our judiciary is at the verge of collapse, degrading of nature is worst in India (mainly due to rapidly increasing population and rampant industrialization), our food security is severely threatened by low productivity and lack of land (to feed our own population), (India) media is more biased and more controlled by rich corporate houses. I can go on with almost any area of life that indicates the health of a country and hardly any area will look promising.
    We, few remaining sane Indians need to remember that to cure any problem, we FIRST need to accept the problem, fix accountability and then plan for a better future. So long we ignore that and think that “what is done is done. Now lets move on” (without analyzing why we fails, without fixing responsibility and accountability) type attitude will invariably lead us to the same mistakes and end up with almost same results. That “lets move one now” attitude is mainly perpetrated by the same people who are directly responsibility for our failure as a country. They do not want us to identify them and remove them from enjoying so much power and money. Unless we do exactly that, ie Identify and remove those people from planning our future, we will not go anywhere towards a better and brighter future. But present trend shows that we are far from doing that and many of us are trying to become one of those people and help destroying our own country. We think that when we will get rich, we will spend our time is Swiss Alps or Scottish highlands or enjoy American dreams and all those "stupid" countries will accept the corrupt, self-destructing people in open arms and give us citizenship or residence permit! How foolish we are!
    A person who cannot keep his/her head high in his own country will NEVER can do that anywhere in the world and do NOT deserve to be respected anywhere.

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  • 30. At 3:30pm on 18 Mar 2011, Jay wrote:

    We, few remaining sane Indians need to remember that to cure any problem, we FIRST need to accept the problem, fix accountability and then plan for a better future. So long we ignore that and think "what is done is done. Now let's move on" (without analyzing why we failed, without fixing responsibility and accountability) type attitude will invariably lead us to the same mistakes and end up with the same results. That "let's move on" attitude is mainly perpetrated by the same people who are directly responsible for our failure, as a country. They do not want us to identify them and remove them from enjoying so much power and money associated with power.
    Unless we do exactly that, i.e. identify the policies and remove those people responsible for it from planning our future, we will not go anywhere towards a better and brighter future. But the present trend is very frustrating as it shows that many of us are far from doing it. On the contrary, we are trying to become one of those people and help destroying our own country.
    We think that, when we will get rich, we will spend my time is Swiss Alps or Scottish highlands or enjoy American dreams, and all those "stupid" countries will accept the corrupt, self-destructing people like us in open arms and give us citizenship or residence permit! How foolish we are! If (a real big "if") those countries start doing that in massive scale, they will be just like present day India in no time. And such developed countries have enough reason not to allow such corrupt Indians to enter and live in their countries, if they want to remain "developed" in the long run.
    A person who cannot keep his/her head high in his own country, who does not fight for his own country will NEVER can do that anywhere in the world and do NOT deserve to be respected anywhere either.

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  • 31. At 5:43pm on 18 Mar 2011, Eric wrote:

    And inevitably, we meander off topic to bicker about the portrayal of the country. This trend is predictable and is beginning to turn sour.

    Returning to the article, it will be interesting to gauge the full extent of this fraudulent practice (on a global scale). If such forged documents were overlooked only while appointing pilots catering to exclusively domestic routes, it will be in the public's best interest to beef up the existing system in all the countries mentioned in this article (for those with selective reading syndrome- India, China and Philippines). I am also surprised that there is a 'permissible' level of alcohol (for something to be considered over the limit). There are a lot of lives at stake, so should we really be pushing it by assigning tolerable blood alcohol levels? Drinking and driving is bad enough on Terra Firma, but 30,000 feet up there? While flying, I for one would feel safer knowing that the controls were in the hands of a sober and clear headed pilot should things take a twist for the worse.

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  • 32. At 8:01pm on 18 Mar 2011, Jay wrote:

    I do not fly with Air India (AI) and Indian Airlines (IA) since last 20 odd years. I had several very bad experiences with those two Indian Govt sponsored airlines.
    About 7 years ago my wife purchased tickets in AI to fly from New York to Mumbai. About 4 days before her scheduled departure, she came to know that AI has cancelled the all the flights from NY. Even that information was not given by AI, but first by her friends and then confirmed by her travel agent, Make-My-Trip. It was almost impossible to get ANY customer service agent to talk to and search for any alternative by AI. That time I was in Mumbai and was also trying to contact AI head-office in Mumbai and arrange some viable alternative for her, but without any success. It was really hard to get a decent priced ticket in any decent Airlines in that short time. Somehow she arranged a flight by Emirates and since then she promised that she will never fly with AI. It took more than 5 months to get the return of her ticket money, which generally take 7 days (max) for any decent airlines.
    When I used to travel AI and IA, almost everything in those two airlines were so un-professional and sometimes downright scary, starting from cabin crew, in-flight entertainments, ground customer service, aircraft maintenance (both inside and outside). The few good things I remember and appreciate with AI was more leg space (in long haul flights), good quality and sufficient amount food and drink. But those positive issues are too much over shadowed by its long list of negatives.

    The problem with almost any government agency in India, like AI and IA, is too much influence it allows for bureaucrats and politicians to control, even its day to day operations. Any sincere effort (e.g with ex-TATA executive, Russi Modi as its CEO) to restructure Air India and Indian Airlines and make it a professionally run business always end up being futile simply because at some point those efforts confront with politicians and bureaucrats who see those two agencies as their private property and to be looted eternally. Ministry of civil aviation is one of the most profitable federal government ministry to fight for any ambitious, emerging politician and bureaucrat (who is yet to earn enough money for his subsequent generations).
    The list of scams with those two airlines is endless and there is no sign that things will change in near future, except some cosmetic changes in the name of "reform" while giving them public money at a regular interval. Indian taxpayers have no other options but to waste a huge amount of their heard earned money to keep these two redundant agency alive.
    It is far better to allow AI and IA to die its natural death long ago, than to provoke national sentiment and waste public money like this. But people do not make policies, so why to bother about them! The show must go on.

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