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Flights, trains unlikely to begin on May 3, GoM looks at May 15

Updated on Apr 19, 2020 02:22 PM IST

One union minister said that there was a suggestion in the meeting chaired by Defence minister Rajnath Singh at his house that air travel may be started on May 15.

Train coaches seen at a parking bay during the lockdown, at New Delhi Railway Station, Saturday, April 18, 2020.(Mohd Zakir/HT PHOTO)
Hindustan Times, New Delhi | BySunetra Choudhury

Restrictions on air and train travel may continue beyond May 3, when the 40-day lockdown in India to stop the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic comes to an end, at least three people who attended a Group of Ministers (GoM) meeting on Saturday said on condition of anonymity.

One Union minister said that there was a suggestion in the meeting chaired by Defence minister Rajnath Singh at his house that air travel may be started on May 15. These and other suggestions from a free-wheeling discussion attended by ministers including Textile minister Smriti Irani, aviation minister Hardeep Puri and others, will be conveyed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for a final decision.

“There was a discussion on restarting air operations. The aviation minister also said that the planes being parked were also leading to an expense,’’ said one of the attendees. Puri declined comment.

Meanwhile, Air India opened up international bookings from June 1, 2020 and bookings on select domestic routes from May 4, 2020.

``There were no specific dates discussed about when air and rail travel will start,’’ said an official who attended the meeting. “t is perhaps fair to say that it will take time. It will certainly go beyond May 3. In fact, it will be perhaps the last thing that is allowed.’’

As PM Modi takes a final call about when to restart travel, another minister told HT that one of the suggestions at the meeting was on special trains to ferry migrants who are stranded. “It could be a non-stop train from Thiruvananthapuram to Bhubaneswar for example,” this person added.

“We discussed ways to mitigate the hardships faced by the people and the role ministries can play in providing relief to people,” Singh tweeted after chairing the meeting. He said the guidelines to allow limited activities after April 20 and the measures announced by Reserve Bank of India amid the coronavirus crisis were also appreciated.

``We were all glad that the Prime Minister had the foresight to announce the lockdown before any one else,’’ said Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan who attended the meeting. He added that there was no shortage of food or essential supplies in the country.

“The GoM appreciated disbursement of Rs 31,000 crore to more than 332.5 million beneficiaries under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana to mitigate the problems of economically weaker sections of population,” said another official who attended the meeting .

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