The recipients of India’s highest civilian honour – the Bharat Ratna are eligible for free air travel on Air India flights in the highest class. Poverty enthusiast Amartya Sen, legendary cricketer Sachin Tendulkar, singer Lata Mangeshkar and Professor C N R Rao are the only four Bharat Ratna awardees alive. The award has been given to 48 Indians so far. In 2003, the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government had taken a decision to facilitate the lifetime free air travel of Bharat Ratna recipients. The decision was taken “as a mark of respect to the esteemed personalities for their highly acclaimed contribution in their respective fields.”
According to an RTI filed by India Today, and Air India’s response to the same, Nobel Laurette economist Amartya Sen – who has a known fetish for poverty and failed socialist practices is the only Bharat Ratna recipient to have availed of the free air travel scheme.
India Today filed a Right to Information (RTI) request with Air India to know when the central government decided to grant this perk to Bharat Ratna recipients, how many times this has been availed by the recipients and what is the monetary value of the perks availed. It also specifically asked about the number of times Nobel laureate and Bharat Ratna awardee Amartya Sen had availed this perk.
In reply to the RTI, Air India said, “…the procedure for issuance of free tickets to Bharat Ratna awardees was circulated by erstwhile Indian Airlines on 25/08/2003.” On Amartya Sen, Air India said the Nobel laureate has availed this facility 21 times from 2015 till 2019. The airlines said the monetary value of his travels could not be ascertained as the “fare prevailing on time and date of travel is not stored”. The airlines also highlighted that Sen is the only Bharat Ratna awardee who has availed the benefit of this scheme.
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 automatically upgraded to Executive class. TFI reported last year how Amartya Sen is allegedly an illegal occupier at Visva Bharati University (VBU) in Santiniketan, West Bengal. The authorities of VBU wrote to the West Bengal government and alleged that there are dozens of illegal occupiers in the university, including Nobel laureate Amartya Sen.
According to Visva Bharati University estate office, Amartya Sen has occupied 13 decimals extra land than 125 decimals of land originally allotted to his maternal grandfather Kshitimohan Sen. Amartya Sen seems to have just as much fondness accepting freebies as he has been propounding the virtues of socialist welfare schemes.