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Air India crash relatives push for compensation

Around 100 Indian community leaders and relatives of those killed in the Air India crash in Managalore met yesterday to put pressure on the airline to pay compensation.

DUBAI // Around 100 Indian community leaders and relatives of those killed in the Air India crash in Managalore met yesterday to put pressure on the airline to pay compensation.

They agreed to form a 12-person committee that will try to force the issue with senior government officials and the government-owned airline, which has been criticised for failing to settle compensation payments to familes who lost loved ones in the May crash in which 158 people died.

"It took five months for us to organise. This is a crime," said Shaukuth Ali Eroth, head of the All-Kerala College Alumni Fund, an umbrella group for 50 schools. "Today we decided not to commit it anymore."

On Wednesday, relatives had publicly complained that the airline was stonewalling them on compensation by throwing up numerous requests for documentation.

The May 22 flight from Dubai to Mangalore killed all but eight people on board when it overshot the runway, which sits on a plateau and crashed in the valley and burst into flames.

An official inquiry in India found that the pilot landed despite warnings from his co-pilot that "we don't have any runway left."

"We should fight as a group and get the best lawyer ... and the maximum compensation," said MG Pushpakaran, the head of the new committee and the Dubai representative of the Overseas Indian Cultural Congress, which is tied to India's ruling Congress Party.

"There are rules," he said. "They cannot run away from that responsibility."

Mr Pushpakaran pledged to tap his political network to arrange a meeting with the highest-level Indian authorities possible.

Other members will be able to tap extensive networks as well, such as the Indian Media Forum and the Kerala Muslim Cultural Centre, whose membership in the UAE tops 30,000. An insurance claims expert and and two members living near Mangalore will also lend their weight.

Several speakers at the meeting also promised their support.

The victims' families, now backed by the committee, say they each deserve 7.6 million rupees (Dh630,000), the amount set by the Montreal Convention, an agreement on airline crash liability that has been signed by 97 countries, including India.

For now some relatives of the deceased have received offers of 3 million to 4.5 million rupees, said Rafeeq Eroth, president of the Malabar Pravasi Co-ordination Council, which has so far overseen the efforts to fight for compensation.

 

chuang@thenational.ae

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