Mangalore, August 18: A strong protest was staged in front of DC’s office by the Mangalore International Airport Users’ Forum (MIAUF) along with 29 other like-minded organizations on Monday August 18th in demand of various facilities especially for NRIs at Bajpe Airport.
The protest began with a rally from Dr Ambedkar to DC’s office, where the meet was held. The Forum’s major demands included:
• Budget airlines flights to Mangalore from GCC countries
• Cancellation of airport user’s fee in Mangalore
• A memorial for the Bajpe air crash victims with their details and immediate distribution of compensation to their next-of-kin.
• Increase in luggage limit and proper handling of luggage.
• Cordial treatment from the in-flight and ground staff of Air India Express.
• Reconstitute the non-resident Kannadiga welfare forum for the benefit of Kannadigas (applying only for residents of Karnataka)
• Full-fledged services at existing Mangalore passport office
By addressing the protestors, Prabhakar Ambalthere, chief coordinator of the MIAUF, said, “The ticket price for Gulf countries is between Rs 25,000 to Rs 30,000 from Mangalore, but in neighbouring states like Kerala, it is quite lesser. This is because of lack of open skies policy in Mangalore airport. This policy has to be implemented here at the earliest.
“NRIs are facing several problems. They have no adequate facilities. This protest is not against any government, but only an earnest demand for better facilities,” he added.
“There are several people working abroad who come on annual vacations to meet their families and loved ones, and naturally they wish to bring gifts. But they are allowed to carry only 17 kg of luggage, whereas in Kerala state they allow to carry 30 kg. A permanent solution is needed to sort out this problem,” he added.
He also demanded for the withdrawal or reduction in the user’s fee at the airport, stating that already the collection has exceeded the cost of construction of the international airport.\
Further said that protestors met airport director J T Radhakrishna and DC A B Ibrahim to urge them for upgrading the facilities in the airport, especially for NRIs. The Mangalore airport should be allowed to have budget airlines like flydubai and Air Arabia.
Former airport director and currently the chairman of Karnataka NRI Forum said, “We are representing all NRIs working abroad. This is the voice of NRIs. We are not against any MLA, MP or minister. When MLAs and ministers go abroad, the NRIs welcome them with great hospitality, but NRIs are not getting the facilities they deserve. For the first time, NRIs have come forward to express their problems.
He said, “Many people from Dakshina Kannada and Udupi have settled in Dubai and for the benefit of their children, CET cells should be opened in Dubai”. Also he added that there should be a recognized authority who can handle the problems faced by NRIs.
“The passport office in Mangalore should be upgraded and made full-fledged. NRIs are not only for making investments or paying tax, even their problems should be addressed and dealt appropriately,” he added.
Vasudeva said that “Earlier a Volvo bus was operating between the city and the airport, but it was withdrawn later. We demand that it is reinstated immediately”.
NRI businessman Shekar Shetty said, “There are many people from Dakshina Kannada who are working in the Gulf and who contribute millions of rupees to Indian economy. But NRIs have inadequate facilities; even the ticket prices are being hiked. This should not happen.
He said that “This is a request to the government on behalf of all NRIs to provide better facilities. The government should consider our demands seriously”.
Post the protest, a memorandum was submitted to the DC and the airport director with the above demands.
Speaking to the media about the memorandum submitted by the Forum, airport director J T Radhakrishna said that the major demands included introduction of budget airlines, raise in luggage limit and removal of user’s fee.
He stated that “We cannot take these decisions on our own. We will forward the memorandum to New Delhi and to Air India”.