Puri uses 'pawri' humour to caution about aviation recovery, lauds steady progress
The Indian aviation sector is still not totally out of the woods, especially as new Covid-19 surges have tended to pose challenges
Civil aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri engaged in some humour as he announced the Indian aviation sector's steady progress towards pre-Covid figures.
"With rising Covid-19 cases in some regions necessitating restrictions and imposition of compulsory RT-PCR tests, it's not yet time to #pawri. But number of domestic fliers is holding steady. 2,47,037 fliers on 2,330 flights on 19 March 2021. More than 26.3 million fliers since 25 May," Puri tweeted on Saturday (March 20).
'Pawri', which roughly means 'party', sparked a social media trend after a 19-year-old Pakistani student Dananeer Mobeen uploaded on Instagram a video of her chilling out with her friends by the roadside in the Nathaigali mountains. In this random five-second video, Mobeen is seen deliberately mispronouncing the word 'party' as 'pawri', mocking South Asians who try to adopt Western accents, often failing miserably.
The video went viral in both India and Pakistan and Mobeen turned into an instant celebrity. The police in India and the Delhi Commission for Women used 'pawri' monologue renditions for social media outreach, while dairy major Amul based its advertisement on the raging trend.
Puri used the 'pawri' reference to sound a note of caution that the Indian aviation sector is still not totally out of the woods, especially as new Covid-19 surges have tended to hinder the path of recovery. Therefore, it is still not time to party!
Also read: India's domestic air traffic hits new 'high', pre-Covid numbers may not be far away
Indeed, the coronavirus seems to be coming back with renewed force in the country even with the mass vaccination drive gathering pace.
According to a government report on March 20, as many as 40,953 fresh coronavirus infections were registered over a 24-hour period, making it the highest daily rise in Covid-19 cases since November 29, 2020.
Among these new cases, 84% were from just six states, namely Maharashtra (25,681), Punjab (2,470), Kerala (1,984), Karnataka (1,587), Gujarat (1,415) and Madhya Pradesh (1,140). A rising graph is visible in eight states -- Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi, Gujarat, Karnataka and Haryana, while Kerala has been showing a consistently declining trend.
India's active Covid-19 caseload touched 2,88,394 on March 20, with Maharashtra, Kerala and Punjab together accounting for 76.22% of the total number of active cases.
Maharashtra recorded 70 deaths over the past 24 hours, which was the highest in the country. Maharashtra and five other states, namely Punjab, Kerala, Karnataka, Chhattisgarh and Tamil Nadu, together made up 81% of the Covid-related deaths in the past 24 hours.
Considering this situation, which has been evolving over a few months now, and also because of the detection of more infectious strains originating in the UK, Brazil and South Africa, some states in India have become particularly wary about accepting flyers from other states, especially those with high Covid caseloads.
Some administrations like those in Assam and Jammu and Kashmir have gone a step further and made Covid tests at airports mandatory even for asymptomatic passengers. The Assam government, in fact, have prescribed two levels of Covid tests -- Rapid Antigen test and RT-PCR test unless the passenger is carrying a negative report from an RT-PCR test done within 72 hours of arrival in the state.
Also read: Covid-19 crisis easing for Indian airlines as govt allows capacity hike to 80%
In spite of these difficulties, the Indian domestic aviation sector continues to be busy. According to ministry of civil aviation (MoCA) data, on March 19, 2,47,037 passengers departed on 2,330 flights. Also, 2,49,039 passengers arrived on 2,333 flights. This means that there was a total footfall of 4,96,076 and 4,663 aircraft movement that day.
Puri pointed out that there have already been more than 26.3 million (2.63 crore) passengers who have transited through the Indian airports on domestic flights since the sector was opened up on May 25, 2020, after being shut down for two months due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the resultant lockdown. In fact, on May 31, or a week after the domestic aviation sector was reopened, there were just 1,003 flight movements and a footfall of 89,271 at the Indian airports.
Domestic flights were suspended in India when a strict lockdown was imposed on March 25 to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Airlines were allowed to operate at only 33% capacity after factoring in social distancing norms when the flights were resumed in May. However, according to a Business Today report in June, the airlines were operating at only 25% capacity.
The government raised the capacity limit to 45% by the end of June and to 60% in September. As domestic traffic surged, the government in November permitted airlines to hike capacity to 70%, and in December, the limit was raised to 80%.
According to Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) figures, the Indian scheduled domestic airlines carried a total of 155.61 lakh passengers in the first two months of 2021.
(Cover image courtesy Wikimedia Commons/calflier001)