Painful but effective medicine

Painful but effective medicine
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First Published: Wed, Oct 29 2008. 11 47 PM IST
Updated: Wed, Oct 29 2008. 11 47 PM IST
Economic cycles, however painful, are the best cleansers of past excesses, which is what we are going to see this time as well. Asset prices have to correct themselves and consumers have to start saving more, something that has been ignored for a while in the US. At the same time, a financial system that’s more sound as a result of these capital injections will eventually be a good backbone for a sounder recovery of the global economy. With true sound money, meaning that its value isn’t manipulated by increasing the money supply, we wouldn’t have these cycles. Now that is surely something to write about.
—Chris Cantwell
Does India really need a state-run airline? (“Does India need the Maharaja?”, Mint, 28 October).
A delicate issue. It seems as if Air India (AI) has contracted the common cold —runny nose and everything. But like a spoilt child, it refuses to eat its medicine. So what do you do? Chop off the nose? Hand it tissues till it recovers?
Assuming the dichotomy between erstwhile AI and Indian still exists, one may argue that Indian, to a large degree, is an airborne version of a factory bus fleet. Not that there is anything wrong with that avatar. The analogy in no way belittles Indian while claiming private airlines to be elitist. No sir, that is not the intention. The analogy serves to illustrate the demographic homogeneity of the users as far as their employer is concerned.
Compared with “budget” airlines, Indian is expensive. Most people tend to minimize on money when it is their own, and maximize on comfort when someone else pays. Consequently, business travellers prefer to fly the expensive airlines— since they never foot the bill personally. A premise, on which, “budget” airlines started their operations.
Compared with the expensive airlines, Indian service is alleged to be deficient, and hence the business traveller generally prefers private airlines over Indian. So, who flies Indian? Public sector and quasi-government agencies have written rules that Indian should be preferred for official travel. The leave travel concession claims of these officials will be met only if they fly Indian. What do the statistics say?
What about VIPs? What would the Prime Minister do without Air India? Ask anyone about VIPs on flights and “delay” could very well be the first word they utter. These days politicians have taken to flying “expensive” airlines—Kingfisher perhaps? I remember having a well known politician as a co-passenger on a Kingfisher flight from Mangalore to Bangalore. His behaviour was, well, forgettable. Remember “technical snags” whenever VIPs check in late?
And hence we need the Maharaja—to cater to the vast majority of government and public sector officials. The Government of India (GoI) would do well to introduce legislation requiring all politicians to use only Indian. Politicians seem to visit Delhi with the regularity of a common man visiting a favourite neighbourhood grocer. Frequent Delhi trips would mean Delhi becoming the hub of operations. AI can even brand itself the Rajdhani of the sky! The Maharaja would have returned home. Will this cut costs? Hmm…at least they wouldn’t be paying an “evil” corporate entity— even the Left parties may support this move! Anyway, do you think the GoI or any state government would hire taxis for ministers?
Alternatively, they can return AI to whom it belonged in the first place, but I guess that is too sticky a wicket to bat on!
—Sushil Siddesh
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First Published: Wed, Oct 29 2008. 11 47 PM IST