Coronavirus: Air India crew that’s rescuing Indians abroad faces ostracisation in India

New Delhi: Bearing the brunt of the fear and panic spread by the Coronavirus pandemic in India, the crew members at Air India, who have been engaged in rescuing Indians stuck in Coronavirus-hit countries abroad, are facing ostracisation back home. In an official statement, Air India called out the ‘vigilante resident welfare associations’ in India that have been ostracising its crew members for travelling abroad.

“It is alarming to note that in many localities, vigilante Resident Welfare Associations and neighbours have started ostracising the crew, obstructing them from performing their duty or even calling in the police, simply because the crew travelled abroad in the course of their duty,” the statement said. It added, “These vigilantes have conveniently forgotten that many a spouse, parent, sibling, child and near and dear one have been brought home safe and secure from affected countries, thanks to the heroic efforts of these Air India crew.”

‘Air India taking every precaution to prevent Coronavirus infection and spread’

The state-run airline said that it has taken every precaution to ensure the safety of its crew and protect their wellbeing for each and every flight they have undertaken to fly to cities affected with COVID-19 with all essential and non-essential measures to arrest the spread of Coronavirus amongst crew and passengers. In January 2020, guidelines for crew members and operational staff were issued by Air India medical wherein a detailed protocol to handle passengers and self-care was formulated.

“Air India has always ensured that sufficient hand sanitisers, gloves and masks for the crew as well as for passengers are made available onboard. Crew members who are landing into India from affected cities are sent on home quarantine and also to designated hospitals for check-up as part of the protocol. Hazmat suits are also placed in the cockpit for use in aircraft by crew in the event of any suspect COVID-19 onboard,” Air India said.

The backdrop

The news came on a day an Air India crew led by Captain Swati Rawal and Captain Raja Chauhan airlifted 263 Indians stranded in Rome, Italy, which has recorded 5,476 Coronavirus deaths so far. “We would like to appeal to all, particularly the law enforcement agencies, to ensure that Air India crew are treated with respect and freedom that every citizen deserves, especially those who have been discharging their duties in a selfless manner for return of fellow Indians,” the airline said in a Tweet. The government is looking to sell off its 100 percent stake in Air India to a strategic player.