Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Wives of Air India pilots who died of Covid form forum to seek adequate compensation & alternate job

New Delhi: The wives of Air India (AI) pilots who lost their lives after contracting the Covid virus in line of duty have formed a joint forum to seek adequate compensation and alternative employment for themselves.

The “Widows Forum for Justice” has written to AI management, expressing anguish that they are eligible for Rs 10 lakh as ad-hoc Covid death compensation — “an amount which in normal circumstances would have been less than two months earnings of their average net (salary).”

In contrast, IndiGo covers a deceased pilot to the sum of Rs 5 crore.

Employees, including pilots, of several Indian carriers have lost their lives to Covid. A senior AI pilot said the airline has lost five pilots to the dreaded virus.

“The events of the past few weeks and months have been excruciatingly traumatic and we wish to humbly bring the same to your kind notice with a sense of exasperation, outrage and utter disbelief. On inquiry about death compensation payable to these brave heart pilots, we are aghast to learn… eligible for a paltry amount of Rs 10 lakh as Covid-19 ad-hoc death compensation,” writes Vidya Prasad Karmarkar whose husband Captain Prasad M Karmarkar passed away on May 27, 2021.

Captain Karmarkar used to operate Boeing 777 for AI. He had last operated a Chicago-Delhi flight on April 25 and tested Covid positive on April 27. The B777 ace pilot was admitted to hospital on April 29, shifted to ICU on May 3 and died just over three weeks later.

The widows’ forum says current DGCA rules do not have a provision for pilots being declared permanently medically unfit (PMU) without presenting themselves before a DGCA-designated medical board for evaluation.

“This has been recognised by AI and hence vide its pilots’ loss of license insurance circular dated July 2016, AI internal Medical Board is adequately empowered to assess the PMU status of a pilot… for PMU compensation…”

“In almost all of the unfortunate deaths, the pilots have suffered Covid-related multi-organ failure…, before giving up their individual battle against the virus… in such a critical medical state, the pilots could not have ever recovered and… appear(ed) before the DGCA-designated medical board, be declared PMU. It is incumbent upon AI to honour its own commitment under the 2016 circular and release PMU compensation to all pilots who have succumbed to the Covid,” Vidya Prasad Karmarkar writes.

“On the issue of offering alternate employment to the immediate family members of the deceased, we have learnt (that) policy has been held in abeyance over last few years. However an immediate one-time extraordinary exception needs to be invoked in view of this once in a century pandemic situation, which has virtually wrecked and uprooted our lives and our children's future or whatever is left of it,” she requests with “folded hands”.

29/06/21 Saurabh Sinha/Times of India

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