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Their demand is for birthright, not concession

Their demand is for birthright, not concession

During the last week when courts and judgements dominated the headlines, a mercy petition for those who died was also filed before the Supreme Court of India.

It was against the policy of airline companies that charge ‘exorbitant rates’ for transporting the mortal remains of migrant Indians who die abroad. While many neighboring countries allow free transportation of the mortal remains of their citizens who die in foreign soil, our country that boasts of its nationalism and civil society, squeezes out the expatriates even after their death. The charge to transport the mortal remains is determined by the weight of the body just like vegetables and meat. There have been requests many a time, to charge standardized and fair rates instead of determining it based on weight. Even this was not accepted. It is the employing company, relatives or expat organisations that used to foot the bill.

However, hundreds of people who work for a pittance and do not have such support of families, die abroad. Their bodies will lie frozen in mortuaries for a long time. And when many such souls end up there causing lack of space, they would be buried in any of the public cemetery. The final wish to be merged with the homeland where they couldn't tread as long as they wished in their heydays, will also be buried. Mortal remains of not just one or two people but that of over 7,500 Indians had to be buried in foreign countries only because of not having enough money for the tickets.

The fact that it takes several rounds in courts to put an end to this disrespect towards mortal remains, which has been continuing for decades, is highly unfortunate in itself. These people who helped in lending strength to the economy of the country by toiling hard and sweating in the desert, had been awaiting justice at least in death, during all these times. They hoped that the Parliament would introduce a law that would make possible free transportation of the mortal remains of the expats and that the Prime Minister who frequently tours foreign nations would make a historic announcement related to this. However, what they received instead was a severe betrayal of levying double the existing amount. . It was after the media and the expat community jointly voiced their protest led by ‘Gulf Madhyamam’, that the authorities came to a temporary realization that the decision was wrong and that they directed Air India to correct their stance.

It is not the ministers and their entourage going on junkets or tourists who come to see the land, but the millions of Indians living as expatriates far away from their home and family that fill the coffers of the country and that of airline companies. A simple look at the amount of money being sent home by expatriates, or their contribution and support for the country's social charity and cultural and educational advancement, will prove the point. In fact, during the recent floods in Kerala, it was the dedicated service of Indian citizens working abroad that moved even the heads of state of host foreign governments to give a call to their people to render all assistance to the 'brothers in India'. Those are the sons and daughters of India, simpletons who slog it out untiringly till their backs break, for the development of India and the renaissance of Kerala. If, amidst that race for building their home and country, they collapse, carrying them back home with dignity would only be granting their basic right. Therefore, it brooks no delay in heeding their appeal for their dead bodies being brought home either free of cost, or at a bearable cost. There cannot be any further delay in required legislation in favour of that plea. By raising this demand, the expatriate Indian does not snatch any body's rights, but only seeks restoration of a right of those who had given their heart and soul for the sake of their country and near ones. We will be ungrateful every moment we remain unresponsive to this wish.

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