Mumbai: In a major turnaround, the Maharashtra Government, yielding to pressure from the Centre, on Sunday agreed to allow 25 domestic flights to daily take off and land at Mumbai from Monday onwards. An Indigo Airlines flight from Jaipur will be the first to land in Mumbai at 6 am on Monday.
This was barely 24 hours after the government on late Saturday evening conveyed to the Centre that there will be no resumption of domestic flights till such time Mumbai International Airport has got its act together.
Result: there was confusion galore. Though states cannot veto Centre's plan to operate flights, they can surely stop passengers from getting off an aircraft. Besides Maharashtra, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu -- home to the busy Kolkata and Chennai airports -- had also objected to the Centre's plan to restart passenger flights. Tamil Nadu, which has the second-highest number of cases, raised concerns similar to Maharashtra. Bengal, battered by the cyclone Amphan, requested for relief till May 30.
Another sticking point was whether passengers will be quarantined on arrival. Though Aviation Minister Hardeep Puri was categorical that the Aryogya Setu application was a passenger’s immunity ‘passport’ -- which every passenger must download -- states have taken a different call on the need for quarantine and the period of quarantine. Earlier in the day, as the confusion over the flights persisted, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray sought more time from the Civil Aviation Ministry for restarting operations at the Mumbai international airport. In an online briefing, Thackeray said, "I spoke to civil aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri and told him that the Mumbai international airport needs more time to resume its operations.’’
The Chief Minister's Office, in turn, tweeted, ‘‘Uddhav Thackeray told Hardeep Singh Puri that only those domestic flights which are purely necessary -- like those facilitating transfer of international passengers from cities or catering to medical emergencies and students -- should be allowed to operate.’’ The resumption of domestic flights -- announced by the Centre earlier this week – had been a grey area from the outset with Maharashtra not taking a clear stand from the beginning. State Home Minister Anil Deshmukh, too, had opposed resumption of domestic flights from Mumbai. In his tweet, he said, ‘‘It is extremely ill advised to reopen airports in red zone. Mere thermal scanning of passengers is inadequate without swabs. It is impossible to have autos/cabs/buses plying in the given circumstances.
Adding positive passengers will add COVID stress to red zone.’’ In another tweet Deshmukh went on in the same vein. ‘‘Getting passengers to come from a green zone to a red one and putting them at risk of exposure doesn't make sense. Keeping a busy airport up & runn - ing with all Covid-safety measures will need huge staff presence and compound risk in the red zone.’’ Late in the evening the Union Ministry of Civil Aviation said with a degree of finality.'' Domestic operations in the country are recommencing from May 25.
Maharashtra has agreed to limited operations from Mumbai; from other airports in Maharashtra, the flights will operate, as in other parts of the country.'' Incidentally, Maha ra - shtra on Sunday recorded 3,041 Covid-19 cases, the highest daily spike, taking the state tally to 50,231 of which 30,542 alone are from Mumbai.
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