Airline Members Harassed by Neighbours Accusing Them of COVID-19
While the nation stepped out onto their balconies and terraces to clap and beat pans and plates on 22 March, what most forgot was the basic point of the gesture. Which was to ‘applaud’ those heroes who worked tirelessly and served their duties in times of such distress. Heroes like airline crew members who, instead of being supported, are being harassed and ostracised by many for simply doing their job.
A Twitter thread posted by Economic Times Journalist Tarun Shukla brings to light an account of an IndiGo airline crew member, who has found herself at the receiving end of much discrimination and wrongful treatment by her neighbours.
In a video posted online, the crew member is in tears because of the degrading messages that she has received in which people are accusing her of being a coronavirus patient. She talks about how her neighbours are also targeting her mother by shaming her, and the nearby market vendors are refusing to sell her basic essentials like vegetables and other groceries because, according to them, her daughter ‘has the virus’.
Take a look:
What makes things worse for them apart from being in a profession that does put them more at risk than most of us, is having their family members bare the brunt of it too.
Harassment by Police, Locals
When she returned home on 23 March, she got a call from a Kolkata Police officer, who asked her where all she had been and if she was feeling all right. She said she was fine and that she did not have any symptoms.
The officer reportedly asked her for a fitness certificate and a copy of her passport, which she agreed to provide, only if a document asking for the same is provided to her. When the officer refused, she, too did not yield.
That day, the councilor and a police officer came to her house. This time the questions remained the same, but the volume increased manifold.
While the police officer allegedly harped at her being a cabin crew, a local asked why her mother had interacted with other neighbours and stepped out of the house, she says. When she asked how her mother would spread coronavirus, the local said she could have contracted it from the daughter.
“And how do you know that I have coronavirus,” she asked the local, who, apparently, didn’t have an answer. She claims that her mother overheard some locals say that "Dekhi ki kore baire jai, lock kore debo...bikel bela ghar dhore ber kore Isolation hospitale pathiye debo’ (Let’s see how they come out of the house after we lock them. We will drag them out and send them to the islolation ward.)"
Air India Crew Faces Discrimination As Well
This is saddening on multiple levels. The fact that professionals who work in risk-prone environments so as to ensure the safety of others are being discriminated against instead of encouraged. Moreover, this sheds light on the overall stigma that is acting as another roadblock in India’s fight against COVID-19.
The same Twitter user also shared another similar incident. In a video posted by the user, you can see a bunch of people harassing an Air India inflight staff member by asking them to not come back to their own house. In the video, they can be seen yelling at the Air India staff person and telling them not to enter the house and leave because he too has the coronavirus.
Take a look:
Deeply Distressed: Aviation Minister
After these tweets went viral, the Aviation minister responded to the news with the following statement.
He tweeted, “Deeply distressed to know that some aviation professionals who have been at the forefront of India's efforts to prevent & contain the spread of Coronavirus & even rescue fellow citizens from COVID19 around the world are being harassed by their neighbours, RWAs & others.”
Kolkata Police Asks for Report
After the video went viral, Kolkata Police responded to Shukla’s tweet, saying that they had spoken to the IndiGo employee and that the local police has been asked to lend her all help possible.
Kolkata Police Commissioner Anuj Sharma, too, responded to the tweet, saying that his force would take legal action against all those who are “discriminating against such heroes.” He added that he has asked for a report on the matter.
As of now, these professionals have reached out to the police for help. However, with months of lockdown and quarantining ahead of us, one can only imagine how much worse the situation might get.