The Bombay High Court on Wednesday ordered the Federation of Indian Pilots to provide more information about the number of pilots who participated in the Vande Bharat Mission and other similar missions so that the Court can consider their claim for compensation for services rendered during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Senior Advocate Prasad Dhakephalkar said that Federation pilots were participating in the Central Government’s Vande Bharat Mission (VBM) and Air Bubble missions, which were used to evacuate stranded individuals from overseas and for the transportation of life-saving medicines. He submitted the report that COVID took the lives of roughly thirteen senior pilots, with some of them also suffering from long-term effects due to which they had lost their pilot license.

Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice GS Kulkarni said that before they could evaluate the prayers of the petitions, they needed further information about the pilots. “We’d like facts and numbers, such as the number of pilots and which airline they work for, their salary and benefits, and how many flights were part in the Vande Bharat Mission or similar missions.”

They postponed the matter’s hearing for two weeks to give the Federation time to file an additional affidavit with these details. The Federation filed public interest litigation (PIL) requesting that the Maharashtra government and the Central government, through the Ministry of Civil Aviation, develop a policy or program providing adequate pay to pilots who were giving emergency services. The Federation also requested that the Ministry issue instructions to develop a comprehensive insurance policy that would cover all pilots. It was also suggested that the Ministry develop a special class of COVID first responders known as ‘Air Transportation Workers’ to receive priority in the vaccines. Finally, the Federation sought perks that could be granted to pilots, such as family employment to the family member of the pilots who succumbed to COVID.

The matter will be heard again after two weeks.

-Report by Eshan Sharma

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