Ghazanfar Ali Khan, Arab News
Wednesday 11 June 2008
Last Update 11 June 2008 12:00 am
RIYADH, 11 June 2008 — An Indian expatriate from Dhahran was allowed to board a flight home yesterday, ending a monthlong ordeal that began when he collapsed at the airport in Bahrain on May 12.
“The airline has flown Kumar back to India,” said Abdul Razak, spokesman for Qatar Airways in Riyadh.
Rajesh Kumar, 24, was diagnosed with tuberculosis, a potentially fatal bacterial infection that primarily attacks the lungs. In recent years, drug resistant strains of tuberculosis have raised concerns that airline passengers could contract the infection from other passengers.
Qatar Airways had been refusing to allow Kumar to board a flight, leading him to go on a hunger strike.
Kumar, who is employed by Dhahran-based construction contractor Nasser S. Al-Hajri Corporation, was treated for tuberculosis. His situation was complicated after hospital officials said they could only discharge him directly at the airport to fly to India where he should undergo prolonged treatment.
Kumar said that doctors deemed him fit to travel on May 24. However, the airline refused to find him a seat. He also accused his employer of not supporting him.
“It was not our problem,” said an NSH spokesperson who would only give his name as Unni.
“Qatar Airways was taking care of him. We told Kumar that if he needed any help from us, we would help,” said Unni. After being deemed fit to travel, Kumar contacted Qatar Airways on May 28 to fly to New Delhi on the next available flight.
In a statement to Arab News, Qatar Airways said: “Kumar contracted a communicable disease and he would be only allowed to travel in a confined environment of an aircraft. So it was necessary for us to obtain the right clearance documents in the interests of his and other passengers’ safety.”
It added: “But, thanks to everyone, finally, a stranded passenger has been rescued. The main document, which is the medical discharge certificate, was obtained via the Indian Embassy in Bahrain, which confirmed that Kumar was fit to travel.”