Around 800 Kashmiris stranded in Dubai due to the Covid-19 outbreak have arranged two chartered flights for their return to the Valley and urged the Indian government to expedite the clearance for their landing in Srinagar.
They say they have been appealing to the Centre to evacuate them to the Valley as they were facing severe problems surviving there without jobs. They say they are under distress with some of them facing medical emergencies, visa issues and others running out of money and other means.
Sajad Ahmad, one of the stranded Kashmiris, said that so far only one flight under the government’s Vande Bharat Mission has been operated from Dubai. The first flight under the mission was in May and another is scheduled for June 11 in which about 150 of them are being brought back, he said. “My visa has been cancelled by the company because of coronavirus. It has been three months without any salary. Now I do not have any money left,” he said.
Another Kashmiri, who did not wish to be identified, said most of them have no sources of income and they depend on some well-to-do Kashmiri families there who are providing them food. “There are many medical emergencies including pregnant women. Many people have lost jobs, some have visit visas and we have no sources of survival left now,” he said, appealing for help.
They said they have now arranged two chartered flights from Dubai to Srinagar and want the government to expedite the procedure for approving their landings at the airport here.
“We have somehow managed, by pooling money, to arrange and then secure an approval for non-stop chartered flights to be operated by Fly Dubai on June 9 and 10. The dates are pending approval by the authorities in Dubai and Srinagar airports. All other formalities have been completed,” Aamir Rafiq, who is among those stranded in Dubai, claimed.
Officials at the Srinagar airport also said the airport authorities have been approached regarding the chartered flights.
However, a decision on them has to be taken by the ministries of external affairs, defence, civil aviation, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) and the Airports Authority of India in consultation with the civil administration here, they said.
“This is not something directly under the authority of Srinagar airport. For any international flight, the approval of the MEA is a must. Then, since this airport is a defence airfield, the approval of MoD (Ministry of Defence) is also required,” an official at the airport said.
He said the permission of the Ministry of Civil Aviation and the DGCA is also required for such a flight to land at any airport in the country.
“After securing the permission from these four, it goes to an apex team which includes AAI and Air Force for slot availability. Then, the civil administration is required to approve the flight landing because it is COVID time and it has to be checked whether they can handle the flight on a given day and time or not,” he said.
The official said the Srinagar airport has no problem in permitting the flights to land once the required approvals are secured.