Vande Bharat Mission: Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan denies claim of restricting flights from the Gulf

ST Staff
Thursday, 4 June 2020

CM stated that Kerala has never blocked the entry of their own people from entering the State during these times of crisis due to Covid-19.

Chief Minister of Kerala Pinarayi Vijayan has denied the fact of ever proposing the idea to the Union government for restricting or delaying flights from the Gulf as a part of the Vande Bharat mission of deporting people safely to their respective countries or cities. He also added that all the flights have been permitted to operate for evacuation.

In a press conference, Vijayan informed the arrival of 140 flights in Kerala which carried around 24,333 passengers along with three ships carrying 1,488 individuals.

“The Centre government promised to operate 360 flights from abroad in the second leg of Vande Bharat starting from June and the state government granted permission for all flights. The Ministry of External Affairs has scheduled only 36 flights from June 3 to 10. The state government granted permission for all 160 flights and another 324 flights needs to be scheduled in June,” Pinarayi Vijayan said.

“I understand that the centre government could not operate the more flights due to logistics and I’m not blaming the Centre government for its limitations. The state government is ready to grant permission for more flights once they schedule already permitted flights. We have also granted permission for 40 chartered flights from the Gulf and only 14 have been scheduled so far. The state government also granted permission to Spice Jet which is planning to operate 300 flights from the Gulf,” he added.

He also said that during the process of allowing the services of chartered flights, three conditions were proposed in advance which included parity of flights under Vande Bharat mission with the fare tickets, pregnant women, children, mentally disabled patients and senior citizens or patients in need of medical aid should be given priority where special seats should be allotted to them.

CM stated that Kerala has never blocked the entry of their own people from entering the State during these times of crisis due to Covid-19. “We have welcomed their homecoming and taken elaborate arrangements for their treatment and quarantine. Pravasi Malayalees have every right to return to the state,” the CM said.

The Chief Minister made these comments in response to the statements made by the Union Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan, that Kerala has approached the Centre to temporarily restrict flights from the Gulf.

In the past, the Kerala CM has been accused by V Muraleedharan for State managing challenges posed by Covid. At a media conference, the CM had stated that the Union Minister was “unaware about the decision taken by the Central government”.

On the other side, the Keralites stuck in the Gulf are going through a trail of distress and tension as more than 198 fatalities have been reported along with 148 death counts in UAE. quoted President of Indian Community Benevolent Forum in Qatar PN Baburanjan as saying, “Situation is worsening with every passing day. Every one of us is scared. It’s a tragedy that we could not operate Vande Bharat flights properly. Other countries had already evacuated their nationals from here.”

George Varghese who is a social worker based in Saudi Arabia also panicked over the delay and unavailability of regular flight services from the Gulf.

“The blame game will not help us. Save us from the jaws of death. Thousands of labourers are pleading for help. And the Centre government and external Affairs Ministry have become mute spectators in our tragedy,” said George Varghese.

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