Road blockades by the police and dense fog led to hundreds of flyers being stranded in and around Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport on Thursday, the Hindustan Times reported. Many flights were also cancelled or postponed.
Police tightened checking at border areas in view of the ongoing protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act, leading to massive traffic jams on National Highway 8 and MG Road. Hundreds of residents of Gurugram were stuck on the roads for hours, while many missed flights, including crew members from various airlines.
The traffic police said they were inspecting every car entering Delhi to ensure that people planning to join the march called by Left parties and other groups did not come in, NDTV reported.
Delhi International Airport Limited, the airport operator, tweeted requests to the flyers to get in touch with their airlines to get the latest update about flight schedules.
IndiGo had to cancel 19 flights because its crew was stuck in the jam, the Hindustan Times reported. As many as 16 flights were delayed. “There is heavy traffic/roadblock at Delhi - Gurgaon highway,” IndiGo tweeted. “Do keep a tab on live traffic and enough travel time in hand while travelling to the airport.”
“There is heavy traffic congestion on the Delhi Gurgaon highway,” SpiceJet tweeted. “Passengers are advised to keep a check on live traffic while travelling to Delhi airport.”
Vistara Chief Commercial Officer Sanjiv Kapoor said even its airline crew was stuck due to the road blockades. “Due to heavy traffic jam, our crew transport heading to airport are also stuck for the past one hour near Ambience Mall Gurgaon,” he tweeted. “Very tough travel conditions today.”
Three airlines – Vistara, Air India and IndiGo – announced that their passengers, who are stuck in traffic due to protests and police action at various places in Delhi, will be adjusted in other flights. Kapoor said Vistara is offering free cancellations and full refund for those stuck in traffic.
RK Jenamani, head of the airport weather department said that the visibility dropped to 100 metres and the Runway Visual Range was recorded at 125 metres. This led the India Meteorological Department to undertake measure to improve visibility.
“We had advanced information which helped us minimize the effect on flights,” Jenamani said. “The ATC [Air Traffic Control] and airlines were also informed in advance.”
Protests and detentions
Protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act had first begun at Jamia Millia Islamia University in New Delhi on Sunday, but soon spread to other universities and parts of the country.
Dozens of protestors were detained on Thursday for defying prohibitory orders near the Red Fort in Delhi, PTI reported. Police had imposed Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure – which bans a gathering of more than four people – in the area. Voice, internet and SMS services were blocked for four hours in some parts of the city, and entry and exit gates were shut at 20 metro stations through the day. Metro stations are gradually being opened now.
Those who were detained included Swaraj India leader Yogendra Yadav, lawyerPrashant Bhushan and Harsh Mander, Left leaders D Raja, Sitaram Yechury, Nilotpal Basu and Brinda Karat, and former Jawaharlal Nehru University student Umar Khalid. Police station areas where prohibitory orders were imposed are Kashmere Gate, Kotwali, and Lahori Gate.
The Delhi Police issued an order to block communication of all kinds – voice, SMS and internet – from 9 am to 1 pm in the walled city areas of north and central districts, Mandi House, Seelampur, Jaffrabad, Mustafabad, Jamia Nagar, Shaheen Bagh and Bawana. The order was issued to service providers Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio, Vodafone Idea, Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited and Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited.
The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation also closed and reopened many metro stations during the course of the day, keeping the public up to speed with continuous tweets.