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NHRC takes cognizance of death of Air India's elderly flyer due to lack of wheelchair, issues notice to aviation body

New Delhi: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on Tuesday issued a notice to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation after an 80-year-old man died at the Mumbai airport and asked the aviation body to submit a report in four weeks.
A senior citizen, who was on the Air India New York-Mumbai flight, died after he collapsed at the Mumbai airport on February 12.
In an official statement issued on Tuesday, the human rights body said that it has taken cognizance of the matter and added that the media reports over the issue raise a serious issue of the violation of human rights of the victim, who requested wheelchairs for assistance upon disembarking from Air India's AI-116 flight from New York.
"The National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, India has taken suo motu cognizance of a media report that an 80-year-old man died at the Mumbai airport as he had to walk when not provided with a wheelchair despite prior request to the airline. Reportedly, the man of Indian origin having a US Passport had to walk alongside his wife in another wheelchair but collapsed after walking about 1.5 kilometres on the way to the immigration area. The Commission has observed that the contents of the media report, if true, raise a serious issue of violation of human rights of the victim. Accordingly, it has issued notice to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation calling for a detailed report in the matter within 4 weeks," the commission said.
It further asked about the steps taken by the DGCA to avoid any such incident in future.
"It (the report by the DGCA) should include the status of compensation if any, provided to the next of kin of the deceased. The Commission would also like to know the steps taken/ proposed to be taken to ensure that such incidents do not recur," it said.
NHRC further said that the Commission has also observed that there has been a significant increase in the number of air passengers as well as the airfare but the standard of facilities doesn't seem to have improved proportionately resulting in several complaints reported in the media and posted on social media.
"According to the media report, there were 32 wheelchair passengers on the particular flight but there were only 15 available with accompanying staff on the ground to help them. The wife sat in the wheelchair while the husband followed her on foot and collapsed after some time. The elderly couple was travelling from New York to India," it added.
The incident occurred on February 12, upon the arrival of Air India flight AI-116 from New York. Patel, accompanied by his 76-year-old spouse, Narmadaben Patel, had both booked wheelchairs for assistance. However, upon disembarkation, only one wheelchair was available, leaving Patel to walk alongside his wife, who was aided by the lone available wheelchair.
Tragically, during the journey from the aircraft to the terminal, Patel collapsed near the APHO office. Airport medical personnel administered CPR and swiftly transported him to Nanavati Hospital in an MIAL ambulance. Despite efforts to save him, Chief Medical Officer Ronaldo confirmed Patel's passing.
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has cited violations of regulations outlined in CAR SECTION 3, SERIES 'M', PART I, concerning the carriage of persons with disabilities or reduced mobility.
According to Para 4.1.7 of the CAR, airlines are obligated to provide seamless assistance to passengers with specific needs, ensuring their safe travel from the departure terminal to the aircraft and from the aircraft to the arrival terminal exit.
Consequently, Air India has been served a Show Cause Notice by the DGCA for failing to adhere to these regulations, with a mandated response deadline of seven days. Additionally, all airlines have been issued an advisory to ensure an adequate supply of wheelchairs for passengers requiring assistance during embarkation and disembarkation.
The tragic demise of Babu Patel underscores the critical importance of airline compliance with disability assistance protocols and highlights the need for stringent enforcement to prevent such incidents in the future.

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