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India claps as Air India rescue crew faces ostracism back home

Abhinay Lakshman

New Delhi: As the nation obediently broke into thunderous claps and banging at 5 pm on Sunday evening, in accordance with Prime Minister Narendra Modi's suggestion that Indians should celebrate and show gratitude to all workers who are on the frontlines fighting the COVID-19 crisis head-on; vigilante citizens and Resident Welfare Associations in India also started ostracising Air India crew members who have been tirelessly and courageously undertaking evacuation missions to rescue stranded Indians in COVID-19-affected countries.

The irony, however, was not lost on the hundreds of thousands who decided to defy the Prime Minister's request and prohibitory orders, in some parts of the country, to come out on the streets in large numbers and close proximity and made loud noises for more than five minutes.

PM Modi, had in his address to the nation, specifically asked people to stay indoors and show appreciation for emergency services workers, medical professionals and all other people fighting the virus by risking their lives.

On Sunday, Air India issued a statement calling out citizens and "vigilante Resident Welfare Associations" in many localities, who had started ostracising crew members who were part of Air India's rescue teams to COVID-19 affected countries. The public carrier said that despite specific safety guidelines, testing facilities, quarantine provisions and medical facilities being put in place since January 2020, their crew members were in some cases obstructing the crew members from "performing their duties" an even calling the police on them.

Air India's statement read: "These vigilantes have conveniently forgotten that many a spouse, parent, sibling, child and near and dear ones have been brought home safe and secure from affected countries, thanks to the heroic efforts of these Air India crew." The situation also prompted Air India to reiterate the detailed list of measures it has undertaken to protect its crew members and keep them and everyone around them safe.

Air India had issued guidelines for crew members and operational staff, which contained a detailed protocol to handle passengers and for self-care, as early as January this year. It also said that it had left no stone unturned to make sure there is always enough santisers, gloves and masks for the crew as well as passengers on board the rescue planes. The airlines also clarified that crew members returning from affected countries are also sent on home quarantine and to designated hospitals and healthcare centres to get checked for the virus or symptoms.

Expressing that it had been "pulling out all the stops to stand by the Nation" at such a time, Air India said, "We would like to appeal to all concerned, particularly the law enforcement agencies, to ensure that our crew are treated with the courtesy, respect and freedom that every citizen of this country deserves, especially in light of the fact of their having undertaken flight duties to affected countries to bring back Indian citizens."India claps as Air India rescue crew faces ostracism back home

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