A Right to Information (RTI) request filed by India Today has revealed that leftist ‘intellectual’ and ‘economist’ Amartya Sen has availed free air travel by Air India flights on 21 occasions between 2015 and 2019. Sen was awarded India’s highest civilian award i.e. Bharat Ratna in the year 1999 for his work in welfare economics.
Bharat Ratna awardees are eligible for a lifetime of free air travel on Executive class in Air India flights. Just like other civilian awards in India, Bharat Ratna does not entail anyone to add prefixes or suffixes to their name. However, the Vajpayee government in 2003 had granted the perk of free air travel to all such awardees.
While responding to the RTI query by India Today, Air India informed, “The procedure for issuance of free tickets to Bharat Ratna awardees was circulated by erstwhile Indian Airlines on 25/08/2003 (August 25, 2003).”
The original 2003 circular by Indian Airlines read, “The above decision has been taken as a mark of respect to the esteemed personalities for their highly acclaimed contribution in their respective fields. It is, therefore, our endeavour to provide all assistance in facilitating their travel requirements.”
Only Amartya Sen has been the beneficiary of the free Executive class air travel
Besides the ticket price for Bharat Ratna awardees, all taxes and levies are borne by Air India. Although the tickets are issued for Economy class, they are then upgraded to Executive class. The RTI had revealed that economist Amartya Sen has availed the perk 21 times between 2015 and 2019. However, Air India could not reveal the monetary cost of such travels as the data is not stored.
The RTI has further revealed that Amartya Sen is the only Bharat Ratna awardee who has been a beneficiary of the scheme. Although 48 people have been awarded India’s highest civilian award (14 posthumously), only four of them are currently alive. They include Lata Mangeshkar, Sachin Tendulkar, Professor C N R Rao and Amartya Sen.
Amartya Sen: An unauthorised occupant of land belonging to Visva Bharati University
In December last year, Amartya Sen‘s name had come up in the list of people illegally occupying the land belonging to Visva Bharati University in West Bengal. According to reports, the varsity had written to the West Bengal government that several properties belonging to it had been wrongly recorded in the name of private parties. A list of such unauthorised occupants prepared by the University included the name of Amartya Sen.
The properties wrongly recorded in the name of unauthorised occupants include the girls’ hostel, academic department, office, and Vice Chancellor’s bungalow. The University had alleged that their names were wrongly recorded in the government’s record-of-right. It further informed that the University’s land had been wrongly transferred to them and they had set up restaurants, schools and other businesses on it.