Mangalore, May 27: It is now exactly one year after the ill-fated Boeing Express overshot the runway at Bajpe Airport and plunged into the Kenjar valley, killing 158 passengers and crew members. While the airport has recovered from the incident, the families of the victims are scarred for life. Moreover, the AI has upset a number of victims’ families by not paying them adequate compensation.
Bajpe Airport Prospers
The air was thick with rumours about how dangerous the Bajpe Airport was after the tragic plane crash of May 22, 2010, which claimed 158 lives. Only 8 people could survive the tragedy. Later, pilot error was held to be the cause.
Immediately after the plane crash, there were several media reports about how unsafe the Mangalore Airport was. A large number of passengers refused to land at Bajpe Airport for a long time after the plane crash. The airport reported that the number of passengers landing was lesser by 1,768 in July 2010, 29,761 in August, and 2,912 in September when compared to the previous year’s figures.
Clearly, passengers preferred to land at other airports. However, people soon “forgot” about the airport’s dangers. The statistics of 2010 – 11 reveal that 8,27,273 passengers took off from Bajpe Airport and landed there when compared to the 7,86,284 passengers last year.
The Court of Inquiry (CoI), appointed to investigate the circumstances leading to the crash, has studied the situation and made some recommendations, according to which a new ATC tower is now being build and steps are taken to improve runway markings and increase the safety area at the end of the runway. Besides, the airport will soon get a runway long enough to meet international standards by this year end. The airports new terminal building was inaugurated on May 15, 2010.
The income of Bajpe Airport has also shot up to Rs. 32.88 crore this year from Rs. 27.65 crore last year. Clearly, the airport has recovered from the initial shock of the tragedy and all set to develop into an international airport.
Families Still Weep
The families of the plane crash victims, however, still have to recover from the shock. A large number of families are still struggling to overcome the grief of losing a loved one. Many still cannot control their tears when they remember their loved ones.
For instance, Prabhakar Devadiga of Kemthur lost his brother Jayaprakash (28) in the crash. He said that Jayaprakash was coming home for the first time after working in the gulf for 3 years, adding that Jayaprakash was the only of the 8 people in his row who did not survive. Stating that the family has received Rs. 5 lakh from Air India and Rs. 2 lakh each from the union and the state governments, he said that AI is yet to pay the rest of the compensation.
Since Jayaprakash was very popular in social circles and was a theatre artist, his well-wishers and friends have constructed an open air theatre called Late Jayaprakash Ranga Mandira in his honor near Moodabidri. Prabhakar said that the theatre will be inaugurated on the first anniversary of the plane crash.
AI is yet to compensate a large number of people who lost their loved ones in the tragic plane crash of May 22, 2010. They allege that although a number of AI officials visited their homes immediately after the tragedy, they never got in touch later.
Expressing her grief over the death of her husband Somashekar Kotian, Veena Somashekar said on the occasion of the multi-faith condolence meeting organized by the Mangalore Plane Crash Victims’ Families Association today at Bishop Jathanna Auditorium said that Air India has not compensated her in any way. She added that AI had refused to pay the compensation he deserved.
Pradeep Kotian, one of the survivors of the crash, who had arrived for his brother’s marriage, said that he has still not received any job promised by the AI although it is one year after the tragic incident. He said that he has still not recovered. Stating that he used to work as a technician in Dubai, he said that he had lost his Dubai job because of his ill-health and has no means of livelihood as AI has not kept its promise. He said he has received a compensation of Rs. 2.5 lakh from AI and the central government.
Sharing his experiences, Abdulla Puttur, another survivor said that AI made a public announcement that it would provide jobs for the plane crash survivors and cancelled the offer after 8 months. He said that although he tried to get another job in Dubai, he was still unemployed.
Shaheena, the wife of Rafeeq Ahmed, who died in the plane crash, said that she quietly took whatever compensation was given to her because she has to raise 3 children.
Expressing his sorrow at losing his sister and her 3 children, Abbun said that the AI has not even bothered to get in touch with the family to discuss compensation issues. After the luggage was recovered, they gave Rs. 900 and two children’s dresses, but the family declined to receive it as it did not belong to them. He said that the bodies were kept in the morgue for 3 days till the husband of the deceased arrived, but AI did not even bother to pay the morgue fees.
Speaking further, Abbun said that nothing has been done although the media has supported the victims and their families a lot after the plane crash. He blamed not the media, but the government for the injustice meted out to the victims’ families. Alleging that the AI paid out compensations as per financial status, he alleged that the AI, which received around Rs. 300 crore from insurance companies, has given away only Rs. 3 crore of it as compensation.
Alleging that rules get automatically changed if a minister’s son dies in the air crash, he said that the victims families are fighting not for the AI’s money, but for money that rightfully belongs to those who lost their loved ones in the crash. He also said that the victims’ families have started an anti AI campaign among their friends and family members.