The announcement with customary Indian pomposity of Vande Bharat Mission to repatriate Indians was received with great enthusiasm by everyone looking to return to base. However, a number of hiccups took away the initial cheer of many of them. One was the restrictions on OCI card holders, which seems nearly resolved even though the recent reports coming in from Mumbai speak of OCI card holders facing problems even now.
The chief trouble spot is the fares charged by Air India. It is unforgivable that the Airline, and for that matter, the Civil Aviation ministry, decided to indulge in price gouging at a time when Indians stranded abroad and NRI’s stranded in India were going through harrowing times because of the pandemic.
Imagine, Air India ticket from India to US costing more than Rs. 100,000. The fare used to be Rs. 53,000 in November 2019 and Rs. 61,555 in January 2020. In many cases, actual fares are even higher than those fixed by Air India.
The Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri who a few months ago declared the airline will be shut down if no buyer was found by March, 2020 seems to have decided to let Air India make a little money at the cost of those who are already under strain and stress. In fact, government of India should have been sympathetic and generous enough to repatriate all without asking them to pay the air fare. That would have been a gesture to be admire and be proud of.
The US laws are very clear on price gouging. The administration here has acted tough against those found price gouging. In fact, Air India, too, may be charged with violating the US laws. A US citizen can jolly well file a complaint and have Air India in the docks.