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Modi govt told airlines to stop selling tickets, but they still are




Representational image | Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg

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New Delhi: India ordered airlines this week to stop selling tickets. Hardly any listened.

Four of the country’s top six airlines, which together control 80% of the local market, are selling domestic flight tickets for as soon as the third week of May, searches on their websites showed. That’s despite the government saying no decision has been made on allowing flights after the end of the nationwide lockdown on May 3, which means airlines should refrain from selling tickets until authorities give them the go ahead.

Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri reiterated that no commercial flights will be allowed to operate until the spread of the coronavirus has been controlled and that the lifting of restrictions will only be considered later.

Market leader IndiGo, operated by InterGlobe Aviation Ltd., is selling tickets from June 1, as is Vistara, the local affiliate of Singapore Airlines Ltd., searches showed. SpiceJet Ltd., the nation’s second-biggest airline, and Go Airlines India Ltd., which has furloughed 90% of its staff, are selling tickets from May 16. Tickets weren’t available on the websites of state-run Air India Ltd. and AirAsia India, the local partner of Malaysia’s AirAsia Group Bhd.

“We are working on that. Hopefully will find ways to resolve soon,” Arun Kumar, the head of India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation, said in a text message when asked about the sales.

Vistara declined to comment. Representatives at IndiGo, SpiceJet and GoAir didn’t immediately respond to requests for comments. InterGlobe’s shares slid 5% Wednesday and SpiceJet fell 3.5%. The benchmark Sensex index advanced 2.4%. InterGlobe is down 28% this year and SpiceJet has slumped over 60%.

Airlines around the world are using ticket sales to generate cash flow as the coronavirus pandemic brings travel to a standstill, drying up revenue sources. Flybe Group Plc, Europe’s biggest regional airline, and Virgin Australia Holdings Ltd., have already collapsed after running out of cash, and analysts predict many more failures if governments don’t come to the rescue.

India’s aviation industry could lose as much as $3.6 billion in the three months through June if planes are grounded for the period, according to Sydney-based CAPA Centre for Aviation. One of the world’s fastest-growing aviation markets, India is a notoriously difficult place to operate as provincial taxes push up fuel costs and cut-throat competition means airlines are often forced to sell tickets below cost. Most were offering customers credit instead of refunds for canceled flights to generate cash for day-to-day operations.

The coronavirus continues to spread in India, rising 8% from Tuesday to Wednesday to reach 20,080 confirmed cases and 645 deaths. One month ago, there were only 315 confirmed cases in the country. –Bloomberg

Also read: DGCA directs airlines to refrain from taking bookings


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Andhra doctor, suspended for alleging PPE shortage, now beaten by cops for ‘creating nuisance’




doctor with a stethoscope
A doctor with a stethoscope (Representative image) | Pixabay

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Bengaluru: A doctor with a government hospital in Andhra Pradesh, who was suspended for questioning the shortage of PPE kits, was admitted to a mental health facility Sunday, a day after he was allegedly manhandled by the police and arrested for creating nuisance in Visakhapatnam.

Dr Sudhakar Rao, a government civil surgeon, was beaten, his hands tied behind his back and dragged by police officers Sunday. During the incident, Sudhakar allegedly verbally abused the Jagan Mohan Reddy government in an inebriated state. Videos of the incident have since been widely shared online.

“The police control room received a call about a person creating nuisance on Beach Road Hospital in Visakhapatnam. The Fourth Town police was rushed there and found that the person was the suspended doctor, Sudhakar.

“When the police tried to control him, he snatched the mobile phone of an officer and threw it away. He is suffering from mental disorder and he was drunk. He was sent for a medical examination,” Vishakapatnam Police Commissioner R.K. Meena told the media Sunday.

Sudhakar was admitted to a mental hospital Sunday after doctors at the King George Hospital in Vishakapatnam said he suffered from anxiety.

“Since the doctor is in anxiety and talking irrelevant things, I have referred him to a mental care hospital in Visakhapatnam,” said Dr Radha Rani, medical superintendent, King George Hospital.

A statement released by the hospital said: “Dr Sudhakar was brought to the KGH casualty ward at 6.30 pm. From the smell, it was found that he was in a drunk condition. Under the influence of alcohol, he did not cooperate with anybody there and kept abusing all. Still, his pulse, BP were checked. Pulse was 98, BP 140/100. Blood samples were sent to forensic lab to ascertain alcohol content in his blood.”

Also read: 6 toilets for 20 houses, inadequate testing: Why Mumbai’s Worli chawls are a Covid hotspot

‘Treatment towards Sudhakar was inhuman’

Sudhakar, who spent more than 10 years at the Narsipatnam Government Hospital in Andhra Pradesh, was suspended from his duties in March after he openly criticised the Reddy government for failing to provide PPE kits and N95 masks to doctors treating Covid-19 patients.

He had alleged that the state government was giving N95 masks and PPE kits meant for doctors to politicians and the police.

A video of Sudhakar criticising the government was also shared widely. In the clip, he can be heard saying: “We are putting our lives at risk here. We are asked to use the same mask for 15 days and a fresh mask will be provided only twice a month.”

Speaking to ThePrint, Dr P. Gangadhar Rao, member of the National COVID Committee of the Indian Medical Association, said the manner in which Sudhakar was manhandled by the police was “inhuman” and “violated” human rights.

“We strongly condemn the way he was taken into custody. He was not carrying a weapon, he was alone, the number of policemen outnumbered him. Why treat him like that? We also saw a video where a policeman beats him with a lathi,” said Dr Gangadhar.

He added that Rao was one of the most experienced anaesthetists the Andhra Pradesh government had.

“Our next step of action is to get Sudhakar to write an unconditional apology for having used filthy language, abusing the chief minister and the government. We will then take our appeal to the CM seeking that he be reinstated,” Gangadhar said.

Also read: Face shields, gowns, masks — the new attire for cabin crew post lockdown


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