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Thursday, January 30, 2020
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Ratan Tata received the Lifetime Achievement Award at The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE) Mumbai conclave. The person who presented the award—Infosys co-founder Narayana Murthy—accompanied it with a moving gesture of great respect. Everyone went  awwww. See the photo that captured the moment.


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EVERYONE'S TALKING ABOUT...

The biggest news story today, explained.

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A whole lotta airlines cancelling Kunal Kamra

Welcome to Day 2 of the fallout from Kamra’s encounter with Arnab Goswami. Story me twist: An array of airlines have now banned him from their flights. But is that legal?

 

Quick recap: For anyone just joining us, here are the basic deets. The comedian tweeted a video of him having an, er, enthusiastic (one-sided) dialogue with journalist Arnab Goswami during an IndiGo flight to Lucknow. IndiGo slapped him with a six-month ban. And Air India followed suit soon after. (Our explainer has everything you need to know about the ‘Jab Kunal met Arnab’ kahaani.)

 

Now what happened? SpiceJet and GoAir have also banned him. More amusingly, Jet Airways also declared that “Mr Kunal Kamra is suspended from flying on any Jet Airways flight.” Considering  Jet itself has been “suspended from flying”... We’re now waiting for Kingfisher to issue a ban. Kamra’s only remaining flight options: AirAsia and Vistara.

 

Also this: Showing that they’re always willing to go that extra mile, the government also announced that the Indian Railways is considering a similar no-rail patri list.

 

How long is he banned? While IndiGo has declared a six month ban,  the others have banned him ‘until further notice’which sound ominously indefinite.

 

Wait, can they do that? India does have a no-fly list—which was put in place in 2017. Birju Kishore Salla infamously became the person to be added to the list. His crime: Salla pulled a fake hijacking scare on a Mumbai-Delhi Jet Airways flight. He was sentenced to life imprisonment and fined Rs 8 crore! 

 

What do you have to do to get on this list? The present rules divide no-fly passengers into three levels. Level one is verbal unruly behaviour, and carries a three month ban. Level two involves physical unruliness, and slaps on a six-month ban. Level 3 is reserved for life-threatening behaviour, and carries a minimum two-year ban.  

 

And Kamra would be….: Level one, we presume. 

 

Why six months? A different question: Why any ban at all? Let’s play compare-and-contrast:

 

  • BJP MP Pragya Thakur held up a SpiceJet flight last month and argued with the crew because they wouldn’t allow her to occupy the emergency exit seat. This despite the fact she was in a wheelchair , which violates DGCA rules. Action taken: nada. (See clip here)
  • Shiv Sena MP Ravindra Gaikwad hit an Air India staffer in 2017, but was taken off the no-fly list within two weeks—reportedly due to the intervention of a Union Minister. Though karma is indeed a bitch: Shiv Sena later put him on the no-ticket list for the 2019 election, stripping Gaikwad of his MP status.
  • Goswami’s own Republic TV colleague was caught verbally harassing Tejashwi Yadav (Lalu Prasad’s son) inside a plane in 2017. Unlike Kamra—who returned to the seat when asked—Goswami’s colleague ignored the crew repeatedly asking her to stop (see clip here). Action taken: nada.

 

So this isn’t legal? It’s clear that none of the airlines have followed due process —as there is no record of a complaint to the pilot (as required by the rules) or even an initial inquiry. And the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA)—the national aviation authority—did a massive flip-flop that doesn’t inspire confidence. 

 

What flip flop? First, DGCA directorate general Arun Kumar told Huffington Post IndiGo’s ban had violated the the Civil Aviation Requirement (CAR) rules that govern the ‘Handling of Unruly Passengers’: “Kumar said that as per DGCA rules, in case of any unruly behaviour restricted to verbal confrontation, the airlines should first impose a temporary ban of 30 days on the passenger and conduct an internal enquiry headed by a retired judge into the incident.” 

 

And? But soon after the story was published, the DGCA issued a statement saying HuffPo has “misquoted/misrepresented the facts.” And airline bans are in “complete consonance” with the rules — specifically paragraphs 6.1 and 6.4 of the CAR. These clauses require any such matter to be referred to an internal committee (6.1), which then has to render its judgement within 30 days (6.4).

 

Ok, so it is legal: Well—as some eagle-eyed folks on Twitter point out—the DGCA kinda skipped over paragraph 6.3 which states: “Pending decision of the Internal Committee, the concerned airline may ban such unruly passenger from flying, but such period may not exceed a period of 30 days." So yeah, that six-month IndiGo ban is most definitely iffy.

 

What is Kamra saying? He’s standing firm with zero regrets. Watch his response here. And he doesn’t seem to have lost his sense of humour,  tweeting : “Modiji, can I walk yaan uspe bhi baan hai….”

 

What about everyone else? The incident has sparked many heated debates, even among those who are usually on the same side of a political debate. But Rahul Gandhi made sure that everyone knows that he has Kamra’s back—because that will surely help his cause.

 

The bottomline: Kamra’s YouTube statement has nearly one million views overnight. He doesn’t need to board a flight to reach his audience. Also: what started out as a story about an in-your-face comedian is now a story about government-appeasing authoritarianism.


Learn more: The Telegraph has the best overview of the latest developments. Huffington Post digs into the CAR rules. Mint reports on the Indian Railway plan to crack down on bad behaviour. Watch Kamra’s response here. This Insta take on Air India banning Kamra made us laugh. Also: our explainer on the IndiGo encounter.

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IN CASE YOU MISSED IT...

Hating all the fake news flooding your Whatsapp

Your Brexit update is here: The European Parliament overwhelmingly approved the deal that seals Britain’s exit from the European Union. The final tally: 621 to 49. It was a fond farewell, with  EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen saying, “We will always love you and we will never be far.” Up next: an 11-month transition period where the two parties will negotiate a new trade deal. (BBC)

 

Your viral outbreak update is here: Here’s the latest on the deadly new coronavirus spreading across the world. (FYI, our explainer)

  • The latest tally:  Number of deaths: 170. Confirmed cases: 7,700.
  • Zero tickets to China: Sixteen airlines have cancelled all flights to China, including Air India. Business Insider has the list.
  • The beer angle: A disturbing number of people think that the disease is connected to Corona, as in the beer.
  • WHO under pressure: The World Health Organisation is reluctant to declare a global emergency as it will have severe trade and economic implications for China—but experts are criticising it for dragging its feet. The WHO will meet again today to take a final decision.
  • India angle: According to a new study, India is among the top 30 countries at "high-risk" from the virus. The assessment is based on the number of air travellers expected to enter a given country from the worst affected cities in China. The good news: We are #23. The top three "at risk" countries: Thailand, Japan, and Hong Kong. The US is #6Plus: Indian airports are installing thermal scanners to detect infected passengers.
  • Finding a vaccine: Ali Baba founder Jack Ma has offered $14 million dollars to develop a vaccine. Meanwhile, scientists around the world are working overtime on a cure, hoping to hold clinical trials in three months. NBC News has a lot more on that angle. Closer to home: our beloved AYUSH ministry claims that homeopathy and unani medicine can prevent infections.
  • Finally, Chinese citizens are taking full jugaadi measures to protect themselves from the virus. See an example here.

 

Facebook shells out a lotta money: The company will pay $550 million dollars in one of the largest consumer privacy settlements in US history. The plaintiffs’ claim: illegal storage of biometric user data. Or to put it in plain English: FB’s ‘Tag Suggestions’ tool used to automatically scan a user’s face in a photo and offer suggestions about who that person might be. A handy option except no one gave the company’s facial recognition software permission to store images of their faces. Facebook has since made this an opt-in feature. (TechCrunch)

 

Apple is soaring in India: The company reported double-digit growth in the last quarter of 2019—thanks mainly to multiple price cuts on the iPhone XR. It is now  one of the fastest-growing smartphone brands in the second-largest smartphone market in the world. The deeper reason for Apple’s rise: its new ‘Made in India’ strategy. It shifted to local manufacturing in the middle of last year—which in turn made the price cuts possible. Point to note: Apple isn’t even on the top five list of smartphone brands in India. (Mint)

 

How do you take down WhatsApp University? All of us have groups where a relative or friend will happily share blatantly fake news. And for fear of appearing rude, most of us don’t pipe up to correct them. New research on India suggests that staying mum is, in fact, the worst thing to do. Any kind of “correction”—be it a link or even a simple “I don’t think that’s true, bro”—has a huge impact on the rest of the members of the group: “Results from the study show that participants who were exposed to a correction of any kind were significantly less likely to believe the false information posted by the first user.” Also: offering users a simple “button” to express doubt may be a highly effective way to combat fake news. (Hindustan Times)

 

A new and progressive pregnancy bill: extends the period for legal abortions from 20 to 24 weeks. The cabinet has approved the bill, and it will be introduced in the next Parliament session. (NDTV)

 

Zero booze for pregnant women: Until now, it was considered safe to have an occasional glass of wine when you’re expecting. But new research—which reviewed 23 studies on the effects of alcohol on a fetus—warns of a significant link. And while researchers can’t quantify how much is too much, they are advocating total abstinence as the safest policy. (Gizmodo)


Mumbai police cancels queer pride march: The annual march slated for February 1 has been denied permission by the police. The reason: “A rally was supposed to be held regarding LGBTQ issues, but the police have received information that, in the rally, anti-CAA and NRC placards will also be shown against the Central government. Hence, we denied permission for this rally.” (Quint)

 

The ‘All about diets’ Pop Up: includes the following:

  • CNN ranks the best and worst diets of 2020. Keto ranks almost rock-bottom. 
  • Bon Appetit has a shorter but thought-provoking take on the unintended effects of diets like Whole30, Keto and Paleo.
  • Mel Magazine explains ‘intuitive eating’—the diet that aims to change your relationship with food.

 

Things that make you go WTF: Democratic candidate and billionaire Mike Bloomberg shaking a dog’s… snout? Also, Pizza + quiche = a recipe that shouldn’t exist. Watch at your own risk.

 

Cool stuff we learned online: includes the following:

 

  • This post on a blog on Persian vocabulary that argues that ‘namāz’ and the ‘namaste’ are, in fact, the same word, and essentially, the same concept. So we googled to confirm, and Merriam-Webster appears to agree.
  • Times of India offered up the unexpected news that Gujarat is the leading exporter of frozen french fries in India. 
  • Oxford’s Hindi Word of the Year for 2019 is Samvidhaan
  • The Conversation explains why overpopulation is not the cause of the climate crisis.
  • Grazia’s collection of the coolest puffer jackets—which are the hottest fashion trend, and look nothing like the shapeless blobs we’d expect.
  • Big Think explores the surprising relationship between physical and emotional pain.

 

Your daily quota of sunshine items: include the following

  • Google's moving super bowl ad that pays tribute to love and memory. 
  • Business Insider’s fun video documenting the 31 coolest jobs 
  • This Tate Gallery ad for a job that pays 39,500 and requires “extensive experience of cupping.” 
  • This rat earnestly soaping itself. Really. 
  • Jason Momoa taking a bubble bath. Enuf said. 
  • This hapless pandit-ji being dragged to perform pujo in Bengal. 
  • Brad Pitt wearing a name badge at the Oscars

 

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