Pilots' body moves Bombay HC, seeks compensation for COVID-19 death, priority in vaccination

MUMBAI: An association of Indian pilots has approached the Bombay High Court seeking schemes for adequate compensation for pilots who died of COVID-19 or got infected by it, priority in vaccination against the disease and insurance coverage for those working during the pandemic.

The petition, filed by the ‘Federation of Indian Pilots’ on June 7, said pilots are providing essential services, and sought a direction to the Union government to provide an ex-gratia amount of Rs 10 crore to the families of pilots who died due to COVID-19.

As per the public interest litigation (PIL), since February 2021, 13 pilots have succumbed to COVID-19.

The petition said since March 2020, all airlines and pilots are diligently working to operate the ‘Vande Bharat’ and other flights for evacuating Indian citizens stranded in other countries and also for the air transportation of medical supplies during the second wave of the pandemic this year.

“In such times, several pilots have been infected by the coronavirus and many have lost their lives. Several pilots also face the risk of permanent or temporary disability due to the after-effects of COVID-19, like mucormycosis,” it said.

The PIL further said pilots have operated flights during the pandemic with substantial risk to their personal and family safety.

“Despite this, several pilots have been subjected to massive pay cuts since the beginning of 2020,” it said.

As per the PIL, the petitioner and the Indian Pilots Guild had made a representation to the Centre, seeking that they be declared as frontline workers and given priority in vaccination against COVID-19.

But, till date there is no scheme for adequate compensation for the families of pilots who died due to COVID-19, it claimed.

The PIL has also sought a direction to the Centre to frame a comprehensive insurance policy for all pilots, and to create of a separate class of COVID-19 first responders as ‘Air Transportation Workers’ for the purpose of priority of vaccination.

The petitioner and other airline pilot unions have their own individual welfare schemes for eventualities, but the same does not envisage or factor in the severity or probable death in the present pandemic situation, it said.

The petition will be taken up for hearing in due course of time.