Various Hindu and Sikh organisations of Australia have written to India’s Prime Minister, alleging that the national airline of the country was serving only halal food to its passengers.
National Sikh Council of Australia, Hindu Council of Australia, Punjabi Council of Australia, Sri Guru Ravi Dass Sabha, United Indian Associations, Gujarati Samaj of NSW, GOPIO and Nepalese Australian Association have protested against the ambiguity in Air India’s in-flight menu which doesn’t clearly say whether or not its non-veg “Hindu meal” contained halal meat.
While the airline’s menu specifies that its “Moslem meal” doesn’t contain pork or non-halal meats and is “suitable for Muslims as it is prepared in accordance with Halal method”, it doesn’t specify whether its non-veg Hindu meals are halal or not.
It only says the non-veg Hindu meal does not contain any beef or pork.
“The fact that for Muslim meals the Air India’s menu states, at every step, that it is Halal, but for Hindu meal, it doesn’t confirm that the meat in Hindu Meal is not Halal meat, which confirms our doubt that non-Veg Hindu meal does contain Halal meat.
“The fact substantiated by the persons who have travelled by Air India, claiming that even the Air hostesses confirmed to them privately that all the meat served in Hindu non-veg meal is Halal,” the letter reads.
Bawa Singh Jagdev of the National Sikh Council of Australia says Air India is forcing the dietary preference of Muslims on all other passengers.
“This is our right to get what we pay for. Air India is giving preference to Muslims and forcing that on us without informing us,“ Mr Jagdev told SBS Punjabi.
While the organisations have condemned Air India for allegedly serving only Halal and Kosher food, a prominent figure in Sydney's Indian community has defended the airline.
Calling the allegations an uninformed and unworthy campaign against the airline, Dr Yadu Singh said these have been levelled for cheap publicity.
"Where does it say that Hindu non-veg or general non-veg meal in Air India has Halal meat?”
“I travelled with Air India recently and enquired about it as a matter of curiosity. My meal was of my preferred non-Halal type. Air India does serve Halal food to those who request it (like other airlines), and there is nothing wrong in it, but does not thrust it on the throats of anybody else," he told SBS Punjabi.
Dr Singh also claims that some of organisations purported to have written this letter have denied having consented to being a part of it.
"I have spoken with the main campaigner, and I have direct knowledge that some of the associations quoted in the article have not even agreed to have their names there. Their names were added to give the campaign a serious look," he added.
Air India told The Times of India that it served halal food only when requested by a passenger and all other non-veg meals are normally non-halal.
But, Mr Jagdev says the airline is misleading the passengers.
“If that’s the case why doesn’t it reflect in its menu. We will only believe if this is in writing. Because if they write something contrary to reality, they are liable to be sued,” he said.
Earlier in 2014, former chief justice of Delhi high court, Rajindar Sachar had protested when his Air India ticket showed choice for a non-veg meal as "Moslem meal".
The protest letter has been sent to India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju, Indian High Commissioner in Canberra, Consul General of India in Sydney and Air India's senior manager of catering service.
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As our interview with Melbourne solicitor Mr Gurpal Singh suddenly became a topic of discussion around the world about the quality of service provided by Air India, we've spoken to other travellers on the direct flights between Australia and India. Here are two reasonably happy customers - an elderly lady who flew from Delhi to Melbourne, and a Melburnian, whose wife and children were on the inaugural flight from Melbourne to New Delhi on August 30. To hear our interviews with Mr Gurpal Singh and with the Chairman &Managing Director of Air India, Mr Rohit Nandan, please click on the links below. Each of them have attracted comments (especially Mr Singh's interview), from around the world. This matter has been reported in India in a national newspaper as well Like our Facebook page and join the conversation on https://www.facebook.com/pages/SBS-Punjabi/368329703192018