UAE Ambassador Pavan Kapoor ‘appalled’ after India returns bodies

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Pavan Kapoor, Indian Ambassador to the UAE says he is appalled after the bodies of three Indians  flown  back to India were returned to Abu Dhabi on Friday.The three deceased Indian nationals had died of non-coronavirus causes and were flown to Delhi on Thursday but were promptly returned by authorities there.

“We are appalled at what has happened and we do not know if the bodies were returned because of coronavirus-related restrictions, but we are obviously not sending the remains of people [who have passed away from COVID-19],” he added.

“As we understand it happened because of new protocols at the airport and we are trying to sort it out,” he said.“The remains were not offloaded from the plane, and were sent back a few hours later,” Kapoor explained.

The deceased were Kamlesh Bhatt, who passed away on April 17, and Sanjeev Kumar and Jagsir Singh who both died on April 13.

Kamlesh Bhat was 23 years old, and hailed from Tehri Garhwal district. He allegedly died of cardiac arrest. Along with the remains Kumar and Singh, Bhatt’s body was initially repatriated on an Etihad Airways flight, then sent back, even though his relatives had been on their way to collect them.

Kapoor explained the procedure through which remains are normally returned to family members back home, saying that the worker’s employer typically makes arrangements with cargo companies to repatriate bodies on cargo aircraft.

The employer applies for a No Objection Certificate from the Indian Embassy, which is granted once the Embassy ensures that all local formalities have been completed. The cargo company then applies for airport clearance, and the airline obtains approvals from the receiving airport.

The ambassador added there may eventually be additional costs to repatriate the bodies but that it is first necessary to sort out the concerns.

The global coronavirus outbreak has spawned difficulties in repatriating mortal remains as a result of the travel restrictions imposed by countries. Remains of people dying from COVID-19 are not being sent back, but the caution surrounding the handling of bodies often affects the repatriation of those who succumb to other causes.

Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan reached out to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday for intervention in bringing back the bodies of Keralites who have died in the Gulf from non-COVID-19 causes.

“I would like to draw your attention to the grievances received from Non-resident Keralites Associations (NRKs) in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries on the delay caused in bringing home the mortal remains of NRKs who had expired due to reasons other than the COVID-19 infection,” read the letter by the CM.

“It is learnt that a ‘clearance certificate’ from the Indian Embassies is required to process the application of bringing home the mortal remains of the dead. The Embassies are [further] insisting on the production of a no-objection certificate from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), New Delhi. To enable to bring back the bodies of the NRIs whose deaths occurred due to reasons other than COVID-19 infection, without necessary procedural hassles, I request your kind intervention,” Vijayan has requested.