Maharashtra opposes resumption of domestic flightsUpdated: May 24, 2020 00:38 IST
The Maharashtra government is not in favour of resuming domestic flights to and out of Mumbai, even as it decided to once again request the Centre to allow resumption of local trains for essential services workers. The state has written to the Centre that domestic flight operations from the Mumbai airport cannot be started from Monday. It has, however, said that the state has no problem over the operation of transit flights via Mumbai, the city with the highest number of Covid-19 cases in India
It is learnt that the state government has informed the civil aviation ministry that in the absence of required infrastructure at Mumbai airport, it cannot allow domestic flights to land. The ministry had announced that domestic flight operations will begin from Monday from various cities, including Mumbai. Meanwhile, the call on requesting the Centre’s nod for local trains was taken following a high-level meeting between CM Uddhav Thackeray, his senior cabinet colleagues, and NCP chief Sharad Pawar on Saturday.
“We have written a letter to the Centre, clarifying that we do not have infrastructure to handle the passengers arriving in the city. It has also been written to them that the city has too many containment zones and more people cannot be allowed to move in there. In such a scenario, residential arrangements for them could be a major problem. The scanning of passengers and then allocating them quarantine facilities at hotels is not possible at this juncture when hospitals and hotels are being acquired for existing patients,” said an official.
Similarly, taxi, auto and aggregator services are prohibited till May 31 and cannot be allowed only for air passengers, the official added. “Ground-level transportation facilities may become a major problem if we allowed flights. Allowing passengers from other states to alight at the Mumbai airport and travel to their respective hometowns and the arrangement for their transportation, too, was not possible. This could even prove risky in terms of containing the virus spread,” said another official.
In the letter, the state has said that it has no issue over the operation of transit flights between two cities via Mumbai.
“We, however, have directed the Mumbai International Airport Limited to put the infrastructure in place for the emergency flight operations, including flying stranded students in other countries and operations for medical emergencies,” the letter has stated.
Though the Centre was pushing for resumption of the flights, the state government is believably hell-bent on its decision as it has decided to not amend the notification, which continues the ban on flight operations till May 31. The state’s leadership is also wary of allowing flight operations because the initial surge in cases was due to passengers landing at three airports in the state.
Top sources from Mumbai airport, however, said that the airport will be operational as per the Central government’s order. “It is the responsibility of the state government to ensure passengers don’t face inconvenience during their road travel. The airport, however, is fully prepared and will commence flight operations from Monday,” said the airport source.