As the family of a migrant worker has found at the Shamshabad airport, the Telangana government’s free ambulance service to transport the bodies of dead migrant workers from the Hyderabad airport to their hometowns is certainly not free. Harish had to pay Rs 1,500 to transport his father’s body to Adilabad. When confronted, the driver told the youth “everyone pays us for the trip.”
For service providers hired on contract, the Telangana Government provides up to Rs 10,000 per ambulance trips anywhere in the state. This facility can be availed only if the deceased migrant worker comes from Below Poverty Line (BPL). Activists working for Gulf immigrant rights in the state say it is a habit to ask for a tip when a family is grieving.
Sherla Harish Kumar wrote to Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao that his family had to pay money to get free ambulance service. They received the service to transport the body of Harish’s father, Sherla Jalandhar, who died of a stroke in Bahrain on August 1. His body was transported from Rajiv Gandhi International Airport in Shamshabad, Hyderabad to Girnoor village in Adilabad.
“It was raining the day my father’s body arrived at the airport in the morning. They released the dead body to us only at 6 pm. It was difficult to drive in those conditions and the trip took longer than the usual three hours. We arrived only at 2 am, ”said Harish, who then gave the driver Rs 500 even though the service was free. “At that point, he started demanding more. I gave him a good deal of money,” the young man said, then had to collect money from three different people at midnight to pay the driver.
This is the first complaint reported by Srisai Ambulance Service, which operates a free ambulance service on a contract basis. “We returned the money and apologized for the inconvenience. The ambulance driver was fired,” a company spokesman said.
Gulf immigration activist Mandha Bhim Reddy, however, said that this method is common and that no action has been taken despite the ambulance service being brought to the attention of the owner.
“Some drivers take up to Rs 2,500 from families that are suffering from this,” Reddy said, adding that the migrant community has no knowledge of the services they are entitled to. “
The facility is not new, it has been available for over a decade, but many people are unaware that there is such a service due to lack of publicity. The service will only be extended once an official request is made. Social workers need to coordinate with families by telling them that they deserve it.
Telangana NRI cell officials are not available to comment on that. Since July 2014, the NRI Cell has officially assisted in bringing back the bodies of some 518 migrants.
“Unofficially, there may be another 100 bodies. Of these cases, 30 were suicides. Severe weather conditions and lack of proper diet and sleep cause many deaths. In some cases, if a person dies in a hospital accident, hospital authorities declare it a cardiac arrest. This is done so that the worker does not get a compensation of Rs 15 lakh which is eligible, ”said Chitti Babu, NRI wing officer.