Satire | Flexi-airports a la Jamnagar – The Hindu

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Nobody believed me when I said it, and I’ve been saying it for years. I said, “India is the only country in the world where a businessman — no matter how wealthy — can request the government to turn any airport into an international airport for 10 days, and the government will say, ‘Yes, boss!’” And not just say it, but do it. Today the whole world knows this to be true.

Industrialist friends who laughed at me are now messaging me to ask how to go about it. I tell them to just read the papers. In fact, as I had myself reported aeons ago when working for the Guruvayur Guardian, it was the UPA government that framed the enabling legislation.

People with working memories might remember the infamous winter a decade or so ago, when thousands of farmers and workers from all over the country gathered at the Singhu border to protest against the government’s anti-billionaire laws — laws such as MGNREGA, Food Security Act, and the Right to Education Act. After months of stand-off, the government had no choice but to bow down before the working classes’ utter solidarity with the nation’s tiniest and most endangered minority: its billionaires. To appease the protesters, and as a concrete gesture to assure them that they too loved oligarchs as much as any other government, it finally passed the Flexi-Airports to Please the Masters of the Universe Act, 2013 (FAPMUA).

Instant makeover

Like with other brilliant initiatives such as UAPA and GST, although the FAPMUA was hurriedly brought in by the Congress, it did precious little with it. It wasn’t until the advent of Amrit Kaal that the legislation would take off, which it finally did at the Jamnagar airport recently. Anyway, for those interested, this is how it works.

Let’s say you are Mr. Dhandapani, CMD of Dhandapani Industries, and you are planning your son’s wedding celebrations at a pristine nature reserve near Tawang. Your guest list includes international luminaries like Harvey Weinstein, Tim Jong Un, first cousin of Kim Jong Un, Jane Epstein, sister of Jeffrey Epstein, and Harry Pot, great-grandson of Pol Pot. All busy people who move around with high security in their own luxury jets. You can’t bundle them all into one bus like some assorted Bollywood Kapoors. To complicate matters, Tawang only has a defence airport, and it’s a sensitive one, given the proximity to the China border. So what do you do?

It’s simple. You pick up the phone and dial your contact in the regime — the guy who got you out of trouble every time you got a call from the ED or IT department, the guy who told you how many crores worth of electoral bonds you needed to buy. Let’s say his name is Bhai. You tell Bhai your requirements.

“Hello Bhai, Dhandapani this side. I’m hearing GDP is growing at 8.4% and you guys are returning with 500-plus! Congratulations!”

“Thank you, Mr. Dhandapani. How can we help your dhanda today?”

“Listen, my son is getting married at Godzi-La in Arunachal. The nearest landing strip is at the military airport in Tawang. I’ve got global celebs flying down in their private jets and helicopters. Can you convert Tawang into an international airport for, say, 10 days?”

This column is a satirical take on life and society.

“With pleasure, Mr. Dhandapani. Billionaires like you have done so much for India’s inclusive growth, it’s the least we can do.”

“You are very kind, Bhai. We could not have done it without your blessings.”

“You mean the loan write-offs, tax breaks, and just-in-time policy changes?”

“Yes, but also the public lands and resources you sold to us at throwaway prices.”

“You’re welcome, Mr. Dhandapani. If there’s nothing else, I’ll ask my minions to get cracking on setting up a Customs, Immigration and Quarantine (CIQ) facility at Tawang.”

“Excellent. Is it also possible to, say, upgrade the toilets?”

“Absolutely, sir. Whether inside toilet or outside, ease of doing business is always top priority. We’ll thoroughly upgrade and also install latest NFT paintings of Picasso and Monet in all the Ladies and Gents.”

“One last thing, Bhai, if you won’t take it the wrong way.”

“Anything for you, Mr. Dhandapani.”

“Mrs. Dhandapani — she is the one designing the whole event — has this crazy idea. She wants our exclusive high-profile guests to enjoy the privilege of being served by exclusive high-profile waiters. Can you depute…?”

“Of course! What are ministers for, if not to serve people?”

“It’s a pleasure doing business with you, Bhai.”

“Ditto, Mr. Dhandapani. It’s a pleasure serving national interest with you.”

The author of this satire, is Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu.

sampath.g@thehindu.co.in



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