IN HER 11-year-long career with Air India, senior cabin crew Pratibha Dhar said she has never witnessed a day as horrific as Thursday. One of her colleagues, R Sukumar (62), was beaten with a slipper by Shiv Sena MP Ravindra Gaikwad after he asked the minister to disembark from the AI852 from Pune-Delhi Thursday. In the 83-second video clip that went viral, Dhar could be seen pleading with Gaikwad to stop the ruckus as he was a “role model” and a “democratic leader”. Recalling the incident, she said they landed at Indira Gandhi International Airport at 9.10 am.
Since Thursday, she said she has been having sleepless nights. “It was a nightmare. I still can’t sleep. Just before we landed, we suddenly heard this man (Gaikwad) screaming and asking us to call senior officials. Disclosing his identity, he said he wanted to meet the Civil Aviation minister,” Dhar told The Indian Express.
“Before we could find out the reason for his anger, he had almost thrown one of my colleagues, a senior citizen, off the plane.”
Deputy chief cabin crew, Shweta Mukhia, said she had tried to pacify the MP.
“We asked him to deboard the flight as we had to prepare for its scheduled departure to Goa at 10.55 am. But he started misbehaving with us,” Mukhia said.
“As an elected representative, he should be a role model. He threatened to set the plane on fire. It was almost a hijack-type situation — one passenger held up the flight for 40-50 minutes, beating, abusing and threatening us. I have heard about such incidents, but I experienced it for the first time in my career,” she said.
Sukumar, a contractual employee of Air India, said, “My crew told me one passenger had not disembarked. I went to meet the MP to ask what was wrong but he said he would only speak to the senior management and asked me to call the CMD.”
“I said I cannot call the CMD. I said I will have to complain to his higher-ups. He asked me who and I said, if required, I will complain to Modiji. As soon as I uttered Modi’s name, he took his slipper and started hitting me. He even tried to push me through one of the aircraft doors,” he said.
Sources said Sukumar and Gaikwad raised fingers at each other and the fight escalated.
“I ducked and came to a door where the step-ladder was kept. But he tried to lift me and throw me off the ladder. The crew and my colleagues tried to stop him,” he said.