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How Shashi Tharoor’s ‘Cattle Class’ Remark is so Very Pertinent Today

Whereas Shashi Tharoor had to face the scathing flak for his unconscionably degrading remark of labeling the air passengers as the ‘ Cattle Class’, the ground reality unfolding today, unequivocally vindicates him.

It was during my Article ship days with a chartered Accountant firm, A.C. Bhuteria and Company in India Exchange Place, Kolkata, one of my fellow colleagues, Khatuwala, had gushed forth, ‘ You know, ever since Marwaris started entering into the noble profession of Chartered Accountancy, the noble and dignified profession of Chartered Accountancy, had started degenerating’. The acerbic comment, coming all the way from the young man, who himself was Marwari, assumed an unusual significance.

Khatuwala further tried to buttress his point, ‘ Look, unless the profession of Chartered Accountancy was dominated from the people of Southern part of India, it showcased the gravity and the lusture that the profession was avowedly meant to evolve itself as such’. Whereas I, listened to Khatuwala, with a remarkable astonishment apparent at my face, I could seldom disagree with the intrinsic and allegorical significance of the same: The dominance of the people from the southern part of India, invariably upheld the sanctity of the profession which, as Khatuwala was trying to contend, indeed lost its intellectual gravity with the subsequent entry of people whose primary motto was to mint money, putting to shreds the piousness of the profession which inspired awe in the minds of the people.

Small wonder then, the public invocation of Vishwanath Pratap Singh, the former prime minister, calling upon Chartered Accountant community to exhibit forthrightness in assessing the taxable income which legitimately belonged to the national coffer.

Clearly, with the passage of decades down the line, the crime of chartered accountants in colluding with the high profiled criminals masquerading in the form of businessmen and politicians in in bungling of the public resource, is best exemplified by the recent arrest and indictment of the CA of Pooja Singhal, a bureaucrat, who was ubiquitous in media, albeit for the wrong reasons: for gobbling up the public money.

Unequivocally, the deterioration is not confined to the profession of Chartered Accountants; in fact, the ostensible degeneration is palpable in every field: Medicine, law, teaching and, almost in every walk of life, the rampant corruption is apparent.

Significantly, the air travel too, which was considered as the elites prized privilege, ever since it was privatised, when the larger priority was attached to making profit; in fact, the lust for profiteering suitably, yet conveniently, replaced the past precedent of privileged travelling by elites by inviting all and sundry to make a beeline for travelling by air, contributing to the very gravity of such travels losing its overwhelming significance.

No wonder, travelling by air in contemporary times, is akin to jostling for space, while synchronising the flight timing with that of negotiating the inordinate motley group of passengers, almost at loggerheads to enter inside the flight.

Regrettably, my travelling from Mumbai to Delhi, and then, from Delhi to Ranchi, almost rendered me speechless: Lo and behold! despite Corona protocol being in place, the passengers were jostling against each other for reaching the counter for boarding passes and then, even at the frisking point, much like Charles Chaplin’s old day’s movies where the large queue of passengers involved in fisticuffs to get into the train, the crowd of passengers, giving hoots to Corona guidelines, were desperate to get their purpose served; they were determined to outmanoeuvre each other; in fact, the perfect spectacle of ‘ Cattle Class’, the circus jamboorie was on full display at Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi.

While exasperated with this melee of indisciplined passengers, a sudden recollection of a past incident came knocking my mind: how, decades ago, I had flocked to visit Eden Garden, not for watching the Cricket match, but for hearing Nelson Mandella who had visited Kolkata then.

Suddenly, as I stood in the queue to enter inside the stadium, a stampede broke out: in a fraction of second, I fell upon an old man, whose mouth lay open, anticipating a catastrophe. Thankfully, the situation did not deteriorate. Small wonder then, the spectacle presented by the Delhi airport was akin to that stampede which, albeit for few seconds, had sent us all into a panicky mode.

Shashi Tharoor, with whom this writer was in written argument in twitter on some vital issue afflicting the nation, is a straightforward politician who, irrespective of his courting controversy, is known for revealing his mind.

Shashi Tharoor Motivational Quotes

Unequivocally then, his famous comment, even though given a controversial twist, unambiguously depicted the reality as it stands today: The ‘ cattle class’ definition assigned to passengers travelling by air, bears a striking resemblance with the stark reality today: The air passengers, at times, gives an impression of being more unruly than the passengers travelling in train and buses.

Especially when connecting flights create greater chaos and turbulence. Significantly, with the honest observation of Shashi Tharoor, despite being spot on, yet stirred the honest nest: the media, always hell bent upon stoking controversy over the pedestrian issues, gave an unconscionable hype to his otherwise honest statement.

The twist and turn given to the statement, imputing that the censorious observation scathingly defamed the middle class. No wonder, Sonia Gandhi, the then Congress President, had summoned him to explain his stand on his statement. All said and done! Shashi Tharoor, in view of the spectacles unfolding at the airports, especially in such metropolises as Delhi and Mumbai, was never critical or hyperbolic; he, in fact, in his own inimitable style, was starkly defining the ground reality which is discernible to one and all, yet no one would publicly confess about this growing menace.

Suddenly, the observation of Khatuwala, made decades ago, came rushing to my mind: It was Marwaris, he felt, was the trigger for sullying the image of chartered accountants in public perception, likewise, the growing traffic of all and sundry, having taken to flying, contributing to the deterioration of air travelling becoming as pedestrian as travelling in train. Indeed a new addition to ‘ Cattle class’.

Vivekanand Jha: Author of Yes, I am Bihari, The Living Legends of Mithila, The Making of Narendra Modi, Unmaking of Jawaharlal( the first book in the republic, in the wake of abrogation of Article 370) The People’s Leader. He is an acclaimed Author, Academician and a Public Intellectual. He is also the Convener of Education pe  Charcha.

Vivekanand Jha Author of Yes I am Bihari