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Air India takes a hit at Pravasi meet

M.P. Praveen
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Transportation woes biggest issue faced by NRIs, says Chandy

AMID EXPATRIATES:Union Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi and Chief Minister Oommen Chandy with delegates from various part of the world at the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas that got under way in Kochi on Monday.—Photo: Vipin Chandran
AMID EXPATRIATES:Union Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi and Chief Minister Oommen Chandy with delegates from various part of the world at the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas that got under way in Kochi on Monday.—Photo: Vipin Chandran

In hindsight, Union Minister for Civil Aviation Ajit Singh and his deputy K.C. Venugopal displayed perfect judgement in staying away from the inaugural session of the three-day Pravasi Bharatiya Divas that began here on Monday.

They would have had a tough time, had they been present, as Air India emerged the punching bag for everyone from Ministers to delegates who attended the session - NRIs in the Gulf.

Union Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi, who inaugurated the session, dropped more than a hint when he said he had a fair idea about what topped the list of complaints that the delegates were waiting to air.

“I know what it is. Your problems with the flight back home; the approach of Air India,” he stopped mid sentence with a smile.

Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, who spoke after him, was more forthcoming.

Identifying transportation woes as the biggest issue of the NRIs, he held the beleaguered airline responsible for their plight.

Minister for Norka K.C. Joseph was the most acerbic as he made a no-holds-barred attack on Air India.

“We cannot turn a blind eye to the hardships suffered by the NRIs because of the step motherly attitude of Air India. Therefore, the State government is determined to go ahead with Air Kerala at any cost,” he said to a wide round of applause.

Soman Baby, managing director of the Bahrain-based Daily Tribune , pointed out the absence of decision makers to resolve the complaints of delegates with regard to Air India.

His poser about the absence of Civil Aviation Minister was met with an almost irritated response from Mr. Ravi, who said the Minister was from a different political party.

When it was pointed out that the Minister in question was his Cabinet colleague, Mr. Ravi said he cannot force Cabinet members to attend a meeting.

He had invited Mr. Ajit Singh but he was not interested.

Mr. Ravi, however, was candid enough to admit that he could have asked Mr. Venugopal to attend the meet.

C.R.G. Nair, a delegate from Dubai, wondered what prompted Air India to withdraw its service between Dubai and Thiruvananthapuram some years back.

While Mohammed Kavungal, a delegate from Saudi Arabia, lamented the downward spiral of Air India services over the years, Siddique Hussain from Muscat hoped that the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas deliberations would bring about some change in the approach of Air India officials.


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