Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Wednesday said Kerala has neither denied permission nor put any pre-conditions to flights coming to the state as part of the Vande Bharat mission to bring back stranded Indians abroad.
Vijayan was reacting to a question raised by the media about Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan's reported statement that the state government had demanded lesser number of flights.
Muraleedharan reportedly stated that the state government had expressed its inability to make arrangements for receiving more passengers.
"I do not know what his aim was. All are welcome. We have given permission for all flights," Vijayan said when asked about the minister's alleged remark. The state has given permission to all flights asked by the external affairs ministry, he said.
As part of the second phase of the Vande Bharat mission, the ministry had stated that 12 flights would be operated on a single day in June and the state government had given its nod for the same, Vijayan said. Under this arrangement, 360 flights have to come to the state in June.
"But from June 3-10, only 36 flights have been scheduled. This means that the permission granted for 324 flights in June have yet to be scheduled," he said.
"Central government could not operate flights as they had wanted, this is what we need to understand from this. We cannot find fault with this as there would be difficulties in operating a large number of flights simultaneously to bring people from various countries," he said.
Besides the remaining 324 flights, Kerala was prepared to give allow more flights to the state and government had also asked the Centre to inform how many more flights are likely to be scheduled to the state as part of the Vande Bharat mission, Vijayan said.
The state has also granted permission for 40 chartered flights,but till June 2, only 14 flights have come, Vijayan said, adding it was prepared to permit more chartered flights to the state.
For the chartered flights, the two conditions, which had been stipulated by the government, was that the fare should be similar to the Vande Bharat flights and the priority should be as per that fixed by the state-- those who have lost their jobs, pregnant women and those whose visiting visa period was over.
Vijayan said since May 7 expatriates have begun returning to the state as part of the Vande Bharat mission and till June 2, 140 flights have brought in 24,333 people.
In addition, through three ships, 1,488 people have come from foreign countries and totally 25,881 have come to the state from abroad.