Airport red tape strangles HIV+ Mizo girl’s last wish

MANGALORE/KOLKATA: A 22-year-old HIV-positive Mizo girl – counting her last breaths – tried desperately to reach home to see her parents, but airport red tape strangled her last wish. Mawii died at Kolkata airport on Tuesday after being turned away by Air India officials on Monday.

Mawii was being treated at Bangalore’s Bowring Hospital and had taken a fit-to-fly certificate from there, said former Bangalore police commissioner and ex-MP H T Sangliana. But in Kolkata, AI officials wanted another fitness certificate when she tried to catch the connecting flight to Aizawl. "I tried to reason with the airline officials, but to no avail. I again got a medical fitness certificate and faxed it to them, but they still refused to relent," said Sangliana.

Mawii was booked on a Kolkata-Aizawl Kingfisher flight on Tuesday, but died before she could board the plane. AI officials maintained that they could not bend rules laid down by the Director General of Civil Aviation.

According to Sangliana, who had made Mawii’s travel arrangements, she boarded a flight from Bangalore without hassle at 6 am on Monday. The connecting flight from Kolkata to Aizawl was at 11 am. But AI officials wanted a fitness certificate taken in Kolkata before she could board the flight. She went back disheartened.

Arpit Basu, for TNN

On Tuesday morning, Mawii returned to take a Kingfisher flight. She was sitting in the domestic lounge, when she suddenly seem-ed to fall asleep. When she could not be roused, two family members called a doctor, who declared her dead. Her body was taken to Mizoram House and is likely to be flown to Aizawl on Wednesday morning.

AI officials in Kolkata said the wheelchair-bound woman was "fit" when she travelled from Bangalore to Kolkata but fell ill later on Monday morning. "Mawii had a through boarding pass and went to the security hold but fell ill. Doctors at Kolkata airport refused to issue her a fit-to-fly certificate and referred her to a nursing home. We took her to a private hospital, where she was advised to take admission. But her family refused and shifted her to Mizoram House instead," said a spokesperson.

He also claimed that Mawii possessed only a paper that stated "she is ill and be kindly permitted to fly". "It was not a valid certificate as the doctor’s registration number was not mentioned. If she had to fly, a doctor should have accompanied her. We acted as per DGCA norms."

A Kingfisher Airlines official in Kolkata said Mawii’s relatives had not declared that she was a patient. "If we had found her unwell during boarding, we would have demanded a fit-to-fly certificate as well," he said.

A furious Sangliana lashed out at the airline officials, saying it was "inhuman not to grant a person her last wish". "Now, the body has to be embalmed and sent to her parents, the cost of which they cannot afford. All these inconveniences could have been avoided if the officials had shown a little understanding," he said.

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