The revised fare schedule for 2021 not only increased the fare, but also removed the travel subsidy available in the event of a medical emergency.
Cheriya Koya, 66, from Kalpeni Island in Lakshadweep, suffered from kidney failure last year. Being a resident of Lakshadweep, he has no choice but to go to Kerala for medical treatment. Island residents with terminal illnesses are usually taken to Kochi by air ambulance. Cheriya Koya was airlifted with two family members and admitted to Lissy Hospital in Kochi. “We spent around Rs 6000 to transport me by plane, accompanied by my wife and our son. Even that was reimbursed by the health insurance plan at the time, ”Cheriya Koya told the Federal.
However, people like Koya would be required to pay more for an emergency evacuation from Lakshdweep, as the subsidized airlift service was withdrawn. In addition, health insurance benefits have also ceased, so it has become difficult for residents of this Union territory to obtain affordable emergency medical care.
According to the revised table from 2021, the passenger tariff for helicopter service to the mainland (Kerala and Karnataka) has been significantly increased, followed by a sharp increase in vessel tariffs announced a few days ago.
Same price for all travelers
Helicopter medevac is the only way to save the life of a Lakshadweep resident in need of intensive care. According to the revised tariff table released by the Lakshadweep administration, a native must pay between Rs 5,000 and Rs 9,000 to reach Kochi, depending on distance. So, for example, a person living in Bitra, the most remote island, has to pay Rs 8,290 to reach Kochi by plane in an emergency. He / she must spend Rs 25000 only for the evacuation if he is accompanied by two members of his family.
According to the 2018 table, the fare for a normal trip from Bitra to Kochi was Rs 7,530, applicable only for normal passengers with an exemption for emergency medical patients.
On the contrary, the new decree issued in November 2021 stipulates that all residents, regardless of the reason for the trip, will now have to pay the same revised rate. A resident of Lakshadweep, living on Kavaratti Island, now has to pay Rs 6,920 and a resident of Ameni has to pay Rs 6,990 for a one-way ticket to Kochi. A one-way ticket from Agatti to Kochi will cost Rs 7,890 and from Minicoy to Kochi will cost Rs 6,820.
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Most importantly, these fees only apply to residents of Lakshadweep and officials stationed in Lakshadweep. A non-resident must pay almost double for helicopter service. No exemptions are available for them even in the event of a medical emergency. A tourist or any non-islander has to pay Rs 15,060 to travel from Bitra Island to Kochi. The non-resident will have to pay Rs 45,000 to reach a hospital in Kochi if he is accompanied by two other people. “This is a flagrant violation of article 14 of the Constitution which guarantees equality. How can a citizen of another part of the country be treated differently? How is it possible to impose a higher tariff on an Indian citizen of other states? A medical emergency is the same for everyone, ”said PP Mohammed Faisal, MP for Lakshadweep. Faisal submitted a complaint to the Union’s Home Secretary, Amit Shah, asking for immediate intervention in the matter.
The previous tariff decree, issued in 2018, does not distinguish between residents and non-residents. The rate has been applied uniformly for everyone except those with a medical emergency.
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In addition to establishing parity in helicopter fares, the new rules now deprive residents of Lakshadweep of insurance coverage, which included reimbursement of plane medical expenses. Previously, residents of Lakshadweep were covered by a universal health insurance scheme, introduced by the UPA government in 2013. A total of 5,355 families (22,000 people) were insured by Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY), Priority House Holds (PHH) and BPL. The programs have extended the benefit of treatment up to Rs 2 lakh for ordinary illnesses and Rs 3 lakh for terminal illnesses in the hospitals of Ernakulam, Kozhikkode and Mangalore.
Residents, whom the federal government spoke to, said the insurance plan was not renewed after his term ended. Currently, residents of Lakshadweep do not receive any subsidy for the air ambulance or health insurance benefits.
Ship fares have also been significantly increased as of November 10, 2021. The second class fare from Kochi to Kavaratti, which was Rs 650, has been increased to Rs 1,300 – a 100% increase! The price of the boat for the first class ticket has been increased from Rs 2,340 to Rs 3,510. Even the lowest, the sleeper class, has not been spared. The sleeper class ticket from Kochi to Kavaratti was Rs 220, which has now been increased to Rs 320. On the other hand, there is no increase in the VIP cabin fare, which is constant at 6,110 Rs. These rates are applicable only to residents of Lakshadweep. A non-resident must pay Rs 1500 to travel in sleeper class and Rs 3,810 for second class. The first class ticket price for a non-resident of Lakshadweep is Rs 5,820 (compared to Rs 3,380).
Not only the passenger tariff, but also the freight tariff has been increased. Porterage costs for essential groceries like rice and sugar have increased by 100%. The price for a metric ton of groceries is Rs 1,200, which was only Rs 650 before the overhaul. Ship rates between the other ports (Kozhikkode and Mangalore) and Lakshadweep have also increased.