Camera & Producer: Ankita Sinha
Video Editor: Ashish MacCune
The last seven months have been the most difficult for my family. My 4-month-old daughter, Eliza, was born premature and she has hydrocephalus, a condition where cerebrospinal fluid collects in her brain, causing her head to enlarge. Yet, I’m unable to provide her the treatment that she needs. This is because Air India, where I’m employed as an engineer, has not paid me my salary for 7 months now, all because I exposed safety violations that the aircraft turned a blind eye to.
How It Started
I joined Air India in 2005 and over the years, I have observed recruitment irregularities and safety violations taking place rampantly. However, I was transferred all of a sudden because I highlighted safety violations that took place in Air India’s hangar.
A Jet Airways aircraft was brought to the Air India hangar for maintenance and four workers were washing the right wing of the aircraft without any safety harness. If anyone slipped and fell off the wing because the surface was slippery, they would have surely died.
I showed the video to the safety officer, the GM of Western Region who asked me to focus on my work instead of pursuing this, saying that would be better for me. It was a threat. I then took up this matter further with the CMD and CEO by sending them the video. 15 days after that, I was transferred to Nagpur.
Fighting a Legal Battle
My wife was two months pregnant at the time of my transfer. I told them this, but they dismissed it and asked me to join work.
I filed a grievance form and wrote that my transfer is malafide, but this was dismissed. I then filed a writ petition at the Bombay High Court on 22 January seeking interim relief. I was told that the court cannot hear our matter on an urgent basis because other matters were pending. I was asked to join work and then my petition would be heard on merit basis. Hence, I joined the Nagpur office on 27 January.
I was there for a month, leaving my pregnant wife and four-year-old son behind in Mumbai. My wife was having problems with her blood pressure. I informed the higher authorities of this and told them that it won’t be possible for me to stay on in Nagpur. On 26 February, I reached Mumbai and I immediately received a letter asking to join duty in 15 days. I was told that my actions were being perceived as misconduct. I wrote to them explaining my problem, sending them my wife’s medical reports but they did not consider this satisfactory enough and filed a chargesheet against me.
Salary Stopped Without Warning
Air India stopped paying me my salary in April. When I wrote them a letter asking them for clarification as to why they stopped paying me my salary, they didn’t give me any answer. No one’s salary has ever been stopped this way. There is a procedure and that needs to be followed. I am a permanent employee of Air Indian and because of this, there are certain rules that the company needs to follow and everyone comes under the law.
Once they stopped paying my salary in April, I was left with no options. I don’t have an alternative source of income other than my salary. Apart from this, my wife was pregnant so there were medical expenses, my own survival, was at stake. Keeping this in mind, I had to break into my savings and policies. My friends also started to help me financially.
Eliza’s Premature Birth & Critical Condition
In June, my wife’s health deteriorated due to the stress. Her blood pressure shot up and she fell unconscious at home. She had to be hospitalised and her condition was critical. My daughter was born two months before she was due and had to be kept inside the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) for two months.
Had I been receiving my salary regularly, I would have ensured my wife received excellent treatment at a private hospital with good facilities. But I couldn’t give all those things to my wife and now my daughter since my salary stopped coming in. Because of this, today my family is suffering.
Medical expenses have racked up as my child was admitted to the hospital for a very long time. She is being treated for Hydrocephaly and has to undergo medical tests and surgeries constantly. So far, we have had to spend over Rs 2.5 lakhs. Even now, almost every alternate day, I have to take my daughter to the doctor.
My inquiry at Air India is still pending and till then, the matter of my salary hangs in limbo.
[The Quint reached out to Air India for their reaction but is yet to receive a response from them.]