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   Vol. 17 No. 84
Monday December 10, 2018

While Organ Donors Wait

     India’s Civil Aviation Ministry has been approached by regulator Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to ask domestic carriers to help speed up the process of flying out donated organs.
     Moving donated organs in the country has not only been a time-consuming process – often defeating the very purpose of the donation – but also an expensive one.

Above The Madding Crowd

     Moving donated organs from one city to another have been few and far between though intra-city movements have been done with the police creating a “green corridor” amidst the maddening traffic.
     Air transportation of donated organs is common in developed countries, but in India with carriers in the private sector transferring organs from one city to another is expensive, though the most reliable.

Not A Priority But That Could Change

     Adding to the problems are delays in transportation – simply because the donated organs are not provided the priority they deserve.
     As a result, they are not delivered on time and, therefore, wasted.
     The move to impress upon the DGCA came from the Ministry of Health.
     Keeping in mind “the time sensitivity of organ transplantation,” an official who was aware of the initiative said that the DGCA had been requested to ask private airlines to help out.
     The ministry hoped that the government-run Air India would come forward to help out in the transportation.
     Once the details are worked out, it will go a long way to save lives.
     According to estimates, 5,00,000-odd die in the country every year just waiting for organs.
     Take the case of kidney transplants.
     Around India 2,20,000 patients await for kidneys in a year.
     Of this number, only 15,000 are able to receive donated kidneys.
     While on the one hand, the government’s agencies have taken the initiative to save lives, on the other, the government faces a Public Interest Litigation on the transportation of mortal remain from foreign countries by air.

The Remains of the Day

     The Delhi High Court has been dragged into a tussle over the repatriation of mortal remains of Indians dying abroad.
     On one side are the air carriers and on the other a NGO.

Air India Rate Hike Gambit

     It all came unhinged when national carrier Air India put an end to the 50 percent reduction in fares that it was providing for the carriage of bodies of Indians who died in the UAE on September 19, 2018.
     Worse, the airline also put an end to the free transportation of bodies for the distressed and low-income Indian families living in the Emirates.
     Apparently, Air India was only following The Air Cargo Tariff (TACT), with the standard rate specified by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), according to reports.
     Air India had been following IATA’s normal TACT rates everywhere except the UAE where it provided a 50 percent discount.

Sinking Fortunes

     Now, with financial pressures, the sinking rupee and high ATF costs, Air India bosses some time ago took the decision to levy charges as per the TACT rates.
     Reports indicate that Air India used to waive off charges for distressed and low-income Indians – especially when the Indian consulate sent a request.
     Air India’s decision does not seem to have gone down well with the Indian diaspora in the Gulf nations.
     The Indian Ambassador to the UAE, Navdeep Singh Suri, was quoted by a daily saying that the embassy would help the destitute and be ready “to take on a larger responsibility and fill the void left by Air India”.

Advocate For The Forlorn

     In India, NGO Pravasi Legal Cell (Overseas Legal Cell) recently filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) petition in the Delhi High Court asking for an urgent hearing as well as direction for a regulation regarding charges for transportation of mortal remains of migrant Indians who die abroad.
     Said Advocate Jose Abraham, heading the Pravasi Legal Cell, “The petition concerns the exorbitant fee charged by airlines for transportation of the migrant workers within India and from abroad sans any regulation to the effect.”
     He said that the recent decision of Air India to hike fairs for transportation of mortal remains of the Indian migrant workers dying abroad had affected the fundamental rights of emigrant workers working abroad.
     Abraham also mentioned that low-cost carrier IndiGo carried bodies of residents of the Northeast who die in Delhi free of charge.
     His PIL also stated that a few countries, including Pakistan, Bangladesh, etc. have provisions to carry the mortal remains of their citizens back to the country free of cost.
     The petition named the External Affairs Ministry, the Ministry of Civil Aviation and the Chairman and Managing Director of Air India as respondents.
Tirthankar Ghosh

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