The Bombay High Court bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Girish Kulkarni on Wednesday sought details on the number of flights that flew outside India during the Vande Bharat Mission - an initiative to airlift Indians stranded in foreign countries. The bench has also sought data on the number of pilots that were deployed under this mission.
The bench was hearing a PIL filed by the Federation of Indian Pilots (FIP) seeking Rs 10 crore as compensation for their members, who died of Covid19 and even for those who got infected by the virus. It even sought priority in vaccination for pilots and even a separate policy for them as they continuously worked to smoothly enforce the Vande Bharat mission going on since last year.
On Wednesday, when the matter was called out, senior counsel Prasad Dhakephalkar appearing for the federation told the judges that at least 13 pilots have died of Covid19 since March last year.
Dhakephalkar stressed on the fact that pilots have been working diligently to enforce the Vande Bharat mission to evacuate stranded Indians and even to air transport the medical supplies during the second wave of the pandemic.
At this, the bench said before proceeding with the hearing it would first want details on the number of pilots deployed under the mission.
"Let the data on the number of pilots vaccinated so far, the number of pilots deployed under the mission and also their duty hours, be placed before us," the bench said while adjourning the matter for two weeks.
The plea highlights the fact that several pilots got infected during the mission and most of them are running the risk of permanent or temporary disability owing to the after effects of the Covid virus including Mucormycosis aka Black Fungus.
The petition further highlights that several pilots have faced massive pay cuts owing to the pandemic since last one year and thus the Union government must consider creating a comprehensive insurance policy for their welfare. The plea also seeks a declaration that they are the first responders as Air Transportation Workers so that they could be given priority in vaccination