One year after a Necon Air flight from Pokhara hit a tele-communication tower on approach to Kathmandu airport and crashed, killing all 15 passengers, relatives of the foreign passengers and the captain have not yet received the insurance payments.
Martina Joshi, the widow of Capt Jaya Krishna Raj Joshi, says she has spent the whole year in a legal maze trying to collect her husband's $30,000 insurance. All she has collected so far is a sizeable portfolio of legal papers and debt.
Neither have relatives of two Bangladeshi and three Indian passengers on the flight that crashed on 5 September 1999 received the money. Necon Air says paperwork has delayed payments to foreign nationals. It also says that in Martina's case the delay has been caused because the insurance money is also claimed by her mother-in-law.
"We are ready to pay Martina also, but we have to act according to what the law says in such cases," Deep Mani Rajbhandari, managing director of Necon, told us. "The delay is due to legal problems."
The Insurance Board sent instructions to Neco Insurance Ltd (Necon's insurer and also a sister concern) to make the payment to the rightful beneficiary. But even this did not help Martina, who is raising a six-year-old child. She says Necon asked her to accept half the total insurance amount, and more recently asked if she would agree to take two-thirds. But she is firm on getting all due to her.
The confusion has resulted because both Martina and her mother-in-law are listed in Necon's Personal Data Information (PDI) sheet as beneficiaries, and both have applied for the money. The PDI (dated 14 August 1992) names the two as recipients of "100 percent" each. Necon says its lawyers say that would mean 50-50 percent. Martina's legal counsel argues that as spouse and mother of Joshi's son, she is the rightful heir.
"I have asked to see the original of the PDI but have only been given a photocopy," she says. Martina, a Hong Kong Chinese, met Jaya Krishna when she was here as a tourist in 1987, and married him a year later. The PDI also provides "100 percent" of Capt Joshi's provident fund to both Martina and her mother-in-law. But as her claim was backed by another document listing her as sole beneficiary, Martina was able to collected this amount.
The airline says relatives of all others who died in the crash, except those without adequate documents, have been paid. But this is contradicted by a Bangladesh Embassy official who told us that it had written to the airline repeatedly, most recently two weeks ago, but that Necon had not responded. Necon says that it is in touch with two Bangladeshi beneficiaries via email and the payment of one of them would be processed as soon as next week when an additional document arrives. In the case of the other, Necon says it is trying to locate the husband of the deceased before making payments.
Getting insurance payments from Necon was not easy for Nepali beneficiaries either. A relative of travel entrepreneur P.P. Prasai who died in the crash told us the family was only paid the insurance money last month. "For six or seven months, they didn't even bother to contact us," the relative said.
Martina adds that she has received a very cold response to her inquiry at Neco Insurance, which has been instructed by the Insurance Board to make all payments within 35 days of its letter dated 17 August, 2000. She says nothing has happened since.
"All I want is to cut this pain short and concentrate on bringing up my son," says Martina. "I don't speak Nepali and this fight has been very long and harassing." Martina's lawyer, Lok Bhakta Rana, says the airline is deliberately dragging things to "wear her out". Says Rana: "Martina's case is very strong, because the wife is the first relation, and rightful beneficiary. In court we may also get to see the PDI originals."