Dubai: Air India on Sunday reinstated discounts on the repatriation of dead bodies from the UAE to India, a move welcomed by Indians who had vehemently protested against the recent cancellation of the discounts.
Senior officials told Gulf News that Air India had revoked its decision to cancel the 50 per cent discount on the cargo fare for transporting human remains from the UAE, and to stop the free repatriation of mortal remains of distressed Indians.
The decision that had resulted in the doubling of cargo fares for sending mortal remains of the Indian expats in the national carrier and its low-cost wing Air India Express from September 19 has been scrapped with immediate effect, officials said.
Air India’s UAE officials confirmed that the airline has decided to withdraw the decision that had been met with widespread protest from Indian community members, social workers and community organisations.
“We are going to maintain the status quo,” said a senior official.
Consul General of India in Dubai Vipul said the consulate has also been informed about Air India’s decision.
“We have been informed by Air India that they will continue to offer the 50 per cent discount in the case of repatriation of mortal remains of [all] Indian expats and the free of cost service [on freight charges] when the consulate recommends it [in the case of needy Indians],” he said.
“We are happy about the decision as several people from the community had raised concerns about this move. We are happy that Air India addressed it quickly.”
Community members had also raised the issue with India’s Minister of State for External Affairs V K Singh during his community meeting at the Indian Consulate in Dubai on Saturday night.
The minister had assured that he would be taking it up with the Civil Aviation Ministry to find a solution at the earliest.
Anwar Naha, president of Kerala Muslim Cultural Centre, who took up the issue during the minister’s meeting, welcomed the move and said: “Our primary demands remain the same — stopping the method of calculating the cargo fare by weighing the dead bodies and cancellation of all the charges for transporting human remains,” he said.
India’s ruling party Bharatiya Janata Party’s NRI Cell Kerala convener N. Harikumar had met Singh as well as the Indian Prime Minister and Civil Aviation Minister to bring their attention to the issue before Singh flew into Dubai, said the Cell’s spokesperson in the UAE Sajeev Purushothaman.
“We are trying to make it free of charge sooner or later,” he said.
Social worker Ashraf Thamarassery, who has been campaigning for the same, said: “It’s good that they withdrew hiking the charges, though I wasn’t convinced that there existed a 50 per cent discount earlier.”
If the national airline was not willing to make repatriation of mortal remains free of cost for all Indian expats, he said, it should at least consider fixing the cargo fare at Dh500 for bodies of those below 20 years and Dh1,000 for those older than that.
Naseer Vatanappally, another social worker, echoed the same and said: “If Air India makes it free of cost for all, there could be delays in transporting the human remains as everyone would approach them together. So, the best option is to fix a rate not just for Air India, but all the Indian airlines.”
Nandi Nazar, who sent a petition against Air India’s recent move to the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, said he has requested for “waiving transportation charges or establishing an affordable fixed charge for sending mortal remains of Indian citizens not only from the UAE but from other countries also so that death of any expatriate will be treated with honour and due respect.”