Dubai: A visiting Indian minister on Friday said his government would take steps to increase flight services between India and the UAE to curtail the huge spike in airfares in the sector.
India’s Minister of State for External Affairs and Parliamentary Affairs, V Muraleedharan, was speaking to the media after attending a community meeting and Onam celebrations organised by the Indian People’s Forum at the Indian Consulate in Dubai. He stopped over in Dubai while returning home after an official visit to Africa.
Addressing a question on the exorbitant ticket rates due to which several Indian expat families’ summer travels were affected, the minister said the Indian government “has taken serious note of the issue.”
He said he had personally discussed the matter with the previous and current minister of Civil Aviation multiple times. He cited that the aviation sector is not regulated by the government and airfares are largely market-driven.
However, Muraleedharan said the Indian government had last year taken the initiative to increase the number flight services and would continue with the same approach in the upcoming peak travel seasons to lessen the burden on the expats travelling during peak seasons. “We will try to increase the number of flight services like last year by collaborating with the airline companies,” he said.
When asked about the government’s assistance for the families of the Indian expats who had died of COVID-19, the minister said the government had already announced a detailed package for COVID assistance and “if any further steps are to be taken, we will definitely consider it when required.”
Benefits for Indians
Muraleedharan pointed out that India’s friendship and bilateral relations with the Gulf countries had seen remarkable progress over the years and the Indian expats have been greatly benefiting from it. He added that the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement between the two countries has paved the way for several job opportunities for Indians in the UAE and back home.
3.6 million Indians
During his speech at the event, the minister said there are an estimated 3.6 million Indian expats living in harmony in the UAE. “3.6 million people from another country would not be living anywhere else in the world,” he commented, thanking the hospitality of the UAE’s leadership. He said majority of the Indian expats hail from the South Indian state of Kerala, his home state, which celebrates Onam as its state festival. Later, the minister attributed the figure to rough estimates from various sources.
Though there was a reduction in the number of Indians who were working here because many of them had to go back home during the pandemic, he said “people are coming back since the economy is getting revived.” He also praised the contributions of the Indian expat community for supporting the economy and the voluntary services offered to community members in distress.
The minister, who chose to wear traditional Kerala attire for the Onam celebration, said: “We are a society who are fond of coming together and celebrating. That is the speciality of the Indian society and our festivals offer a great opportunity to come together and bond together.”
Pointing out that Malayalis celebrate Onam till December in the Middle East, he said the festival gives aspiration for the people to have progress for everyone and that everyone should live happily and in comfort. “I am happy to note that we will be making efforts to see that we create a society where everyone is treated equally and where everyone has a just society as the dictum “live and let live” is practised in India.”
365 days’ service for 2 years
The minister appreciated the Indian Consulate in Dubai for providing its services on 365 days of a year for two years. He assured the Indian expats that the government of India and its missions here are always keen to ensure the welfare of the expat citizens.
Ramkumar Thangaraj, consul (Education, Passport and Attestation), who is also the acting Consul General of India in Dubai also thanked the Indian associations and social workers for their invaluable services to the community and in assisting the missions to render their services.
Earlier, Jitendra Vaidya, president of Indian People’s Forum, UAE, said the festival of Onam spreads unity in diversity, resonating India’s ethos globally. He announced that IPF would be conducting a mega Onam fest in October in which Malayalam actor and parliamentarian Suresh Gopi will be the chief guest. Officials of various Indian associations and welfare groups and winners of the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award were also present. The event saw cultural programmes related to Onam and the attendees savoured the sumptuous vegetarian feast Onasadhya.