MANGALORE: It was one of India’s worst aviation disasters. But on its third anniversary, not even the memorial to the 158 persons killed in the Mangalore plane crash of May 22, 2010, remains.
The Ground Zero has been overrun by dense foliage. The steel frame of the memorial, which was vandalized five months after it was erected, is gone. The Tannir Bavi burial site, where 12 unidentified victims were laid to rest, is unmarked and can’t be easily located. The Air India Express disaster and its victims seem to have been forgotten.
But the tragedy remains etched in the memory of the victims’ relatives and those who were closely associated with the victims. One such person is Robert Pinto of Valencia. Yuganthar Rana and Mohammed Ali, Air India crew killed in the crash, were his tenants. His communication with various authorities regarding a memorial at the burial site has been stonewalled.
The last communication regarding a memorial at the mass burial site was by the Airports Authority of India (AAI) to the Dakshina Kannada administration in September 2011, asking for information on the ownership of the site.
“If the allotted site belongs to AAI, the office will take up the matter with the corporate headquarters,” stated then airport director MR Vasudeva.
Air India sources said: “We cannot go and build a memorial either at Kenjaru Ground Zero as it’s private land or at Tannir Bavi because it belongs to the port. The district administration and port authorities have to take a call on this. The port had given the land on the explicit understanding that graves had to be left unmarked and no memorial could be built. There was tremendous time pressure on us at that time to bury the bodies, and the civil administration helped us with that site.”
Pinto said the main objection of Air India officials to building a memorial at Tannir Bavi is that a high-tension power line runs over the site. “Weren’t they aware of this earlier? Why did they have to chose such a site where the victims’ memory cannot be perpetuated,” he asks.
Rana and Ali were Pinto’s tenants for more than two years. Ali, who had got a job in Saudi Arabia, was serving the last 15 days of his contract with Air India.