Kerala mulling use of ships to ferry expatriates: Chandy

Thiruvananthapuram, July 15 (IANS) Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy on Wednesday said the state government was considering operating ships from the Middle East to ferry Kerala expatriates to their native state during peak travel season.

Chandy spoke on the issue in the state assembly while replying to a submission made by fellow Congress legislator Palode Ravi.

“I have brought to the notice of the central government the issue of high air fares, especially during the peak season as well as to officials of the national carrier Air India, but nothing has happened. We are now mulling operating ships from the Middle East to Kerala,” said Chandy.

More than two million Keralites live in different Middle East countries. The peak travel season for them is from July to September as well as during Christmas and New Year. An airplane ticket costs more than Rs.50,000 from any Middle East country during peak season, compared with between Rs.7,000 and Rs.15,000 during lean periods.

Under pressure from different organisations of Kerala expatriates, successive Kerala governments have approached the centre and Air India many times to ensure air fares are not jacked up during the peak season.

The state government now plans to hire ships and is likely to get in touch with expatriates’ organisations to find out if Kerala natives living abroad were willing to travel by ships, which offer three-star facilities for around Rs.7,500 per passenger.

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