Mangalore aircraft crash victims' kin keen on equal insurance claims for all victims

More than two months after the Air India Express crash at the Mangalore international airport, the relatives of the 158 passengers killed in the tragedy are still groping in the dark about the settlement of insurance claims.

The relatives of 58 victims from the northern districts of Kasaragod and Kannur have so far received Rs.15.02 lakh as relief for each victim. This includes the Rs.10-lakh interim relief paid by Air India, the balance being the contribution of the State and Central governments. Those from the neighbouring Karnataka have got Rs.14 lakh each.

Air India officials, at a meeting with the relatives of the victims in Mangalore on Tuesday, made it clear that the final insurance claims would be decided only on the basis of the income, perks and family status of the victims. But the relatives appeared keen on equal claims for all victims.

“During the special meeting, attended among others by Air India legal consultant H.D. Nanavati, we have sought equal insurance compensation for all and insisted that the victims should not be discriminated against on the basis of income and other considerations,'' Mohamed Beary, president of the Mangalore Air Crash Victims' Family Association, told The Hindu on Wednesday.

A few family members appeared to be reluctant to take to the legal recourse as they needed money to meet immediate family commitments. The association is prepared to extend any help to get the insurance claims. The association's strategy would be chalked out only after holding another meeting of the relatives of the victims early August, Mr. Beary said.

The family members of the victims are eligible to receive an insurance amount in the range of Rs.72 lakh to Rs.76 lakh under the rules applicable to international air passengers. However, airlines authorities are insisting that the family members furnish papers including salary certificates and copies of travel documents, said Narayanan Kalingom, vice-president of the association.

There are practical difficulties in arranging the salary certificates of the victims, most of them employed in the Gulf, for claiming the insurance amount, as such papers do not reflect the actual income earned. Also, the relatives, some of them settled in the Gulf, are reluctant to travel to India two months after the accident to reveal such information, Mr. Narayanan, who lost his younger brother in the crash, said.

The 158-member association, floated by the victims' close relatives in Karnataka and Kerala, came into being after Air India backed out on its assurance of chartering a special flight to bring the aggrieved relatives from the Gulf a day after the May 22 crash, said Abdul Rahman, a resident of Mangalore, who lost his wife and son in the crash.

The airlines officials are understood to have handed over the remains of the baggage recovered from the crash site to some 48 family members. But none of them is reported to have received any valuable articles, he said.

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