Pinarayi allays concern over NoRK flights

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has sought to play down the Opposition argument that the Left Democratic Front (LDF) government was impeding the smooth repatriation of Non-Resident Keralites (NoRKs) by delaying nod for operating international flights to the State.

By categorically stating on Wednesday that the State was not reluctant to accept NoRKs and had not held back approval for operating flights, Mr. Vijayan cleared the air without directly targeting the Opposition.

The political slugfest began with the United Democratic Front (UDF) triggering a row, mainly on the strength of Union Minister of State for External Affairs V. Muraleedharan’s statement that Kerala had written to the Centre seeking leave for putting in place COVID-19 screening, testing and quarantine facilities once the NoRK arrivals picked up momentum.

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) State president K. Surendran too joined issue and placed the onus for the alleged delay in flying back NoRKs on the State government. The Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) asked the government to direct local self-government institutions to provide free quarantine facilities for NoRKs.

The government had already asked local bodies to utilise their Plan funds for COVID containment, but the panchayats facing paucity of resources were finding the going tough. The latest Opposition move to politicise the repatriation issue is seen as a bid to further buttress its earlier argument that the government was demanding NoRKs to bear the quarantine expenses.

Mr. Vijayan had earlier specified the priorities set by the government for bringing back NoRKs and assured that those rendered jobless and the impoverished would not have to bear the quarantine cost. But the Opposition sought to keep the issues alive.

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