Outrage over vegetarian-only meals on Air India

Ashwani says on short flights the meal is just an add-on, ‘not really worthy of a major concern’. Source: Shutterstock

THE Internet is up in arms over Air India’s recent move to serve vegetarian-only meals to economy class passengers on domestic flights.

The cost- and waste-cutting measure has been labelled as “discriminatory” and sparked online debates about religious and political classism.

Many Hindus in India practice vegetarian diets while many Muslims eat meat. Muslims who publicly eat or sell beef have been ostracized for it – an issue that has been heavily politicized by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s supporters.

India has long been embroiled in a “food war” around the issue of beef consumption. In the Hindu-majority country, cows are considered sacred and beef-eating Muslims have been called out during police raids.

The BBC reported vigilante groups that call for the ban of beef sales had been formed and they attempted to bring down those who transport beef products.

Instead of being brushed off as a service cutback, Air India has been accused of playing the “Hindu nationalist” card.

Air India chairman and managing director Ashwani Lohani has defended the airline’s decision on a Facebook post, citing the move as “reduces wastage, saves on cost, improves service and eliminates possibility of a mix-up”.

He said on short flights “the meal is just an add-on and not really worthy of a major concern.”

Other netizens were confused about how serving vegetarian-only meals would contribute to significant savings for the airline.

The New York Times reported G. P. Rao, a spokesman for the government-owned airline, did not specify how much the airline would save from the new meal plan. In a separate report on The Hindu, an official for the airline estimated the figure to be about US$1.2 million a year.

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