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December 25, 1999
8 crew members hail from Hyderabad
Syed Amin Jafri in Hyderabad
As many as eight of the 11 crew members of the hijacked Indian Airlines Kathmandu-New Delhi flight are from Hyderabad.
An official spokesman of Indian Airlines in Hyderabad told rediff.com that, incidentally, none of the passengers on the ill-fated plane are from Hyderabad. "To our knowledge, there are no passengers (on the hijacked flight) from the city. None of the family members (of any passengers) contacted us so far," he said.
Three crew members -- commander of the flight Captain D Sharan, flight engineer Jogia and flight purser Anil Sharma -- are Delhi-based.
The Hyderabad-based crew members have been identified as co-pilot Rajinder Kumar, flight purser Sateesh and air hostesses Rajni Sekhar, Kalpana Majumdar, Sabita Khalkho, Tapa Debnath, Sapna Ravi Menon and Kavita Mukherjee.
The IA spokesman said that the family of Captain D Sharan was in Hyderabad. His wife Devi along with two children left for New Delhi on Friday night after coming to know about the hijacking.
"The family members of the Hyderabad-based crew members are all here. They have not proceeded to Delhi. We reached out to them and informed them about the hijacking," the spokesman added.
The IA officials refused to disclose more details about the crew members. Efforts by the media to elicit the reactions of the families of these crew members proved futile.
Co-pilot Rajinder Kumar's family stays at an apartment in Neredmet near Secunderabad. Others reside at IA Colony near Begumpet.
On learning about the hijacking incident, Rajinder Kumar's elder brother rushed to the Begumpet airport on Friday night.
Similarly, members of the families of the airhostesses and flight purser also reached the airport and made enquiries about the safety of their dear ones. However, the family members were either too tense or unwilling to answer the media's queries. Some of the family members even refused to identify themselves or give details. Senior IA officials also visited the residences of the crew members and assured their families about the safety of their dear ones.
Sources said that Rajinder Kumar joined IA in 1991. He is married with a two-year-old son. Kalpana Majumdar is the daughter of a retired IA official. Sateesh worked as a catering assistant at the Begumpet airport before being promoter as a flight purser.
"You must understand the feelings of the distraught family members of the crew. They want to be left alone and not pestered with intrusive queries," an IA official said. "They are all a worried lot. We are keeping them posted about the minute-to-minute developments regarding the hijacked flight," he added.
Mahesh Kumar, brother of the co-pilot Rajinder Kumar, urged the hijackers to release the crew members and passengers. "I request them to release all the passengers and crew of the hijacked flight immediately," he said. A relative of air hostess Debnath also urged the hijackers to free the passengers and crew unharmed.
State Home Minister T Devender Goud, who went to the Hyderabad airport on Saturday morning and later called on the families of the crew members of the hijacked plane, had to face the angry outburst from the wife and mother of one of the crew members. They expressed concern over the safety of their dear one. A visibly embarrassed Goud assured that the government would ensure the safety of the crew members. Goud was accompanied by Roads and Buildings Minister (and former CBI director) K Vijayarama Rao.
At the Hyderabad airport, the home minister held a meeting with the IA officials wherein he was briefed on the latest developments on the hijack incident. He also reviewed the security arrangements at the airport. He said that Chief Minister Nara Chandrababu Naidu was in touch with Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh to get the updates on the incident. The Andhra Pradesh resident commissioner in Delhi was also in contact with the authorities there.
Chandrababu Naidu told newsmen that he spoke to the prime minister on Saturday morning and discussed the latest situation arising out of the hijack incident.
Meanwhile, security has been beefed up at the Hyderabad airport in view of the hijacking of the IA Kathmandu-New Delhi flight on Friday.
About 100 police personnel working in the anti-hijack wing have been deployed at vantage points at the airport for surveillance. Checking at the entry points has been intensified with the airport security personnel throwing a security blanket in the airport premises.
The high alert was sounded on instructions from the IA regional office at Madras "for readiness to meet any eventuality". Security guards posted at the hangar and other key installations are maintaining constant vigil.
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