Muscat: India's Ministry of Health and Family Welfare's Airport Health Organisation, represented by Air India, has issued a directive that the Indian national carrier must be notified at least 48 hours in advance if it is required to carry human remains in any form.
A circular issued to cargo agents on July 7 by the Air India office in Muscat noted that the government of India's directive should be strictly followed with immediate effect.
The circular stated that at least 48 hours of advance notice must be given when human remains, either whole or cremated, are expected to be placed on the carrier, along with the individual's death certificate in English listing the cause of death, a police certificate, a mortuary certificate, an embalming certificate, and an NOC from the Indian Embassy.
"Usually, customers book tickets after they obtain all the certificates.
"Under short notice, it is quite difficult to make the necessary arrangements for carrying human remains, even those that have been cremated.
"But if they inform us in advance, we can make things much easier. There are many arrangements that have to be made for transporting human remains," Amresh Choudhary, the country manager for Air India – Muscat, told Times of Oman. >A5
Meanwhile, Indian social workers in Oman remarked that when this new order goes into effect, it will take at least four days to repatriate corpses or cremated remains.
"The circular clearly states that Air India must be informed 48 hours in advance with the provision of all documents.
Usually, to process the documents, we need 48 hours. Then, after obtaining the documents, according to the new directive, we have to wait another 48 hours to transport the body or ashes," Shaji Sebastin, a social worker, told Times of Oman.
"In most cases, the Indian Embassy covers the ticket fare and other expenses for transporting the body or ashes if the sponsor refuses to shoulder the responsibility. Now, if Air India is going to complicate the procedure, we may have to depend on other airlines, which the embassy may not prefer," Shaji added.
"Moreover, such a move by the Government of India reveals that they are least interested in the welfare of the expatriate community. With the adoption of new rules and regulations, they either swindle or upset the expatriate community," asserted Shaji.
Another social worker voiced a similar opinion. "Citing technical reasons, they are complicating the procedure. This will create a worse mess, and there will be delays in repatriating human remains, cremated or otherwise," noted Shameer P. T. K., a Muscat-based social worker.
The circular added that no person shall bring into India the remains of anyone who may have died of Yellow Fever, plague, anthrax, glanders, or any other diseases identified by the Indian government for this purpose. Hence, it is mandatory to obtain a certificate noting that the deceased did not have any communicable diseases.