“We were huddled into a space, as if in a concentration camp. We got the impression that we were not wanted there. We stood and waved, as many celebrities were taken into the aircraft and shown around. It was amusing that the captain of the Indian cricket team, MS Dhoni got a special salute before being escorted into a fighter jet. What does Dhoni know about aircraft?
Could not some engineering students have been offered a chance to learn something?” asked Rohan Sardesai, who has many relatives in the air force. Sardesai was at the Aero India show in the city along with friends, many of them students of aviation engineering, who had made the trip from Pune to watch the show.
As the curtains came down on Aero India 2011, it has been dubbed a huge success. However, many visitors who arrived from Mysore, Belgaum, Mangalore and also some cities beyond the borders of the state to witness the show, left with less than pleasant memories. Some visitors whom this correspondent met said the show was elitist and it grossly neglected the common man.
“I shouldn’t have gone there. I made the mistake of coaxing friends to go with me, and now they hold me responsible for the disappointment they feel,” said Nishith Hundekar of Belgaum, a student of aviation engineering in Pune, who, along with Sardesai and a few other friends, had made the trip.
“Common visitors were treated like cattle. Security persons were herding us around, and gathering us into a public viewing facility, which was already overcrowded. We were stopped dozens of times on the way, for the flimsiest of reasons. We were not even allowed to go near the parked aircraft. It is the common people who need to get a closer look at the aircraft; it is not often that we come across planes. But we were denied the opportunity,” said Hundekar.
“I have nothing against celebrities getting special treatment. They have scaled dizzying heights, and they need to be able to enjoy the fruits of their success. But could not the organisers have spared a thought also for the common folk visiting Aero India?
Could some common people, with the necessary level of physical fitness, not be allowed some of those opportunities to go up in the air? If industrialist Ratan Tata and actor Shahid Kapur could fly, why not a few physically fit students?” asked Anita Mascrenhas, a student of Manipal University, also a keen collector of scaled-down miniature planes, who hopes to enroll for further studies in avionics.
“I know that over five lakh people visited the Aero Show. Not all of them could have been given special privileges of flying the aircraft, but surely, at least some people who were not celebrities ought to have got a chance? There could have been a draw of lots,” says Ashwin Shetty, a student of mechanical engineering at Mangalore.
“Why should our fighter aircraft be used to provide joy rides to celebrities? The common pay more in taxes than all the celebrities put together, and they should be allowed a close look, at least at the aircraft owned by the Indian Air Force,” said Bipin D’Sa, another visitor who had made the trip to Bangalore from Mangalore for the Aero Show.