Dubai: A day after the Indian apex court issued notices to the Government of India and Air India on a petition seeking minimum compensation of Rs7.5 million (Dh518,944) to the kin of the 158 Mangalore crash victims, some UAE-based families told XPRESS their struggle is far from over.
Although they welcomed the Supreme Court's move which is in line with the Montreal Convention (see box), they said the injustice resulting from the inordinate delay in disbursing the compensation due to them has to be undone.
"We have been fooled. There is no doubt about that," said Santhosh Rai, an Abu Dhabi-based resident who lost his wife and two children when their Air India Express Flight 812 from Dubai to Mangalore crashed on May 22, 2010.
Rai said like other family members of the crash victims, he has been engaged in a protracted battle with Air India and its legal counsel H.D. Nanavati for higher compensation after the legal counsel fixed the compensation amounts at slabs far less than the Rs7.5 million due to them under the Montreal Convention. The amount for children for instance was fixed at Rs2.5 million.
Rai said besides the "skewed" compensation amounts, the families had also lost out because of the rupee's devaluation over the past year and the arrears due to them. "For example, if we take the case of my two kids, not only did I not get the Rs15 million that was due as compensation, but I have also lost out on 17 months of interest at the rate of nearly eight per cent on that money."
His sentiments were echoed by Abdul Rahman, who lost his wife and son in the crash. "We have lost our families. And now we are losing out because of this. They are playing with our lives. By delaying the compensation due to us, they [Air India] have stood to gain. And the matter will be dragged further. In any case, we cannot act until the Supreme Court's hearing in April."
Abu Dhabi-based Satish Shetty, who also lost his wife in the accident, said, "I was the first family member to receive the compensation amount. But now I realise that the amount due should have been much more. Why was injustice done to us?"