Special Dubai-Srinagar flight on May 22 to bring back stranded Kashmiris

After evacuation of stranded Kashmiri students from Bangladesh, a direct Air India flight between Dubai to Srinagar scheduled on May 22 will bring back hundreds of stranded Kashmiris.

As per the schedule for the second phase of the “Vande Bharat Mission” released by the Union Aviation Ministry on Saturday, the direct Dubai-Srinagar flight is among 40 Air India flights to operate between May 18 and June 5 to bring back persons of various states of India stranded in different countries.

Announcement of the evacuation flight has brought cheer to many as there are almost 1,000 Kashmiris stranded in Dubai since government of India suspended international air traffic on March 25 owing to Covid-19.

Director, Srinagar Airport, Santosh Dhoke said they have received the schedule for the evacuation flight from Dubai. “Yes, we have been informed about this flight which will be bringing back some of the stranded persons from Dubai. It depends on the type of aircraft as to how many people shall be brought back; but it would be around 200-300,” said Dhoke.

The announcement of the direct Dubai-Srinagar flight comes on a day when Jammu and Kashmir chief secretary BVR Subrahmanyam wrote to Foreign Secretary, Government of India, Harsh Vardhan Shringla urging him to arrange maximum number of flights to bring back stranded Kashmiris from Oman, Dubai and Iran.

“I request your personal intervention in prioritising the evacuation of residents of Jammu and Kashmir stranded in Oman, Dubai and Iran,” reads the letter from the CS to the Foreign Secretary GoI.

“As part of the Vande Bharat Mission, students of Jammu and Kashmir stranded in Bangladesh are being evacuated to Srinagar. This step has been greatly appreciated by the people of Jammu and Kashmir,” reads the letter.

It reads that the J&K government has also received requests from its residents stranded in Oman, Dubai and Iran for their early evacuation. “Their prolonged stay abroad during the COVID-19 Pandemic has made them restless and fearful of catching the disease in a foreign country. They are also desirous of celebrating Eid festival, which is, approaching on May 25 in J&K,” it reads.

The Greater Kashmir on Saturday reported about the problems faced by J&K residents stranded in Oman.

Earlier, the J&K Chief Secretary had written to the Foreign Secretary and sought special arrangements for evacuation of J&K students from Bangladesh. Consequently, 506 students from different medical colleges in Bangladesh arrived in J&K since last week. Another flight for left out students in Bangladesh is scheduled on May 19 from Dhaka to Srinagar with 137 students on board.

Meanwhile, amid the government efforts for evacuating J&K residents including students, labourers and workers from different states of India and abroad, demands for evacuation of left out residents continue to pour in from outside J&K states and abroad.

Scores of Kashmiris stranded in Mumbai on Saturday urged the J&K government to facilitate their evacuation to Valley. A group of stranded Kashmiri people said they were running out of essential goods and money due to the ongoing covid-19 lockdown.

“We appeal you to raise our issue with government. Nobody is listening to us,” said Abrar, one of the stranded Kashmiris in an email to this newspaper. “We are out of essentials and as well as money. Anxiety and depression level is at peak,” he said.

Another group of eight Kashmiris from Russia sought help and said their survival has become difficult due to the ongoing COVID-19 lockdown.

“We landed in Russia before pandemic hit, and entire Russia was locked down soon after that. Whatever we had we lost it. Accommodation and food also took off our entire savings here,” said Imran Baba in an email to this newspaper.

“Considering the dire need and situation we request you (Greater Kashmir) to help us as emergency flights are arranged to evacuate Kashmiris stranded in foreign,” he said.

He said they have no source left to continue their survival in Russia.

Principal Secretary and government spokesperson, Rohit Kansal appealed to the left out stranded people for patience and said the schedules were being finalized for their return as well.

“Total number of returnees will cross 65000 with the arrival of another train from Bengaluru on Sunday (May 17). For other places where people are still waiting, schedules are being finalized for them,” Kansal said.

Nodal officer to coordinate movement of J&K residents stranded in Himachal Pradesh and Punjab into J&K Ajeet Kumar Sahu informed that a total 52396 people returned through Lakhanpur route till 8am of Saturday.

“This is a tough time but everyone needs to have patience as we are reaching to everyone stranded outside,” he said.

Sahu said people have been brought back by road, train and by air as well. “People should stay in touch with local administration and J&K government officials,” he said.

Recently, Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir Pandurang Kondbarao Pole had assured that stranded persons from various countries will be brought back soon.

Speaking with Greater Kashmir, the Div Com had said Ministry of External Affairs was regularly coordinating with governments of various countries for evacuation of stranded Kashmiris.

The Div Com said people wishing to be evacuated should register themselves with the respective Embassies and Consulates and advised stranded persons “not to panic and wait for their turn to be brought back home”. “Evacuation process does take some time. So people need to wait patiently after registering,” Pole said.