National airlines will be carrying out 64 flights to bring back stranded Indians from across the globe in the first phase Under India’s massive repatriation mission named as `Vande Bharat Mission’, almost 15,000 are expected to be brought back in the first 14 days onboard the Indian Navy ships and national airlines Air India and its subsidiary Air India Express.
This huge operation is being carried out in close coordination with several ministries – External Affairs, Defence, Home Affairs, Civil aviation and other government agencies.
Highly placed sources on late Tuesday evening confirmed that the national airlines will be carrying out 64 flights to bring back stranded Indians from across the globe in the first phase. The flights are non-scheduled commercial flights – this means that these are not regular flights, though the passengers will be paying for the flight back to India and will be subject to intense screening for COVID-19 before boarding. “The best possible rates have been negotiated with Air India. For instance, the return flight from the Gulf Region to India is just around Rupees 15,000 only,” sources quoted above said.
“Around four lakh Indians in the Gulf region have registered with the Indian missions to return to India. These include those who have either lost their jobs due to global lockdown, those whose contract is over or those have no jobs. Also, there are women who are pregnant, or someone has to come back home for family reason. However, preference will be given to those who have `compelling reason’ to return,” explained the source.
More than 190,000 Indian nationals have registered themselves at various Indian Missions across the globe will be paying a one-way ferry service charge.
India will also, allow a foreign citizen of the respective countries to leave on board the repatriation flights. This, of course, depends the country they want to return to is allowing people back. Also, it is open for Indian citizen who holds a visa for the destination country.
In a statement released by the Indian Mission in Abu Dhabi, “All the citizens before returning to India will be tested by the UAE authorities and each passenger at the time of boarding would be handed over a safety kit containing 2 3-layered face masks, 2 pair of gloves & pouches/small bottles of hand sanitizers.”
No one will be allowed to board the flights with testing. And on reaching India they will be sent to a 14 -day quarantine period and they will pay for the facility and before leaving will be re-tested for the coronavirus.
Outlining the plans for the repatriation, the source said that the states have been asked to prepare the quarantine facilities as in the first week flights will bring back Indian citizens to 10 states.
According to the plan around ten flights are heading to the UAE between May 7-13. This will be followed by around 7 flights to the US, 5 to Saudi Arabia, 7 to Malaysia, Philippines, Bangladesh, Oman, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, and the UK.
INS Jalashwa and INS Magar are on their way to the port of Malè, Maldives. The ships will bring back Indian citizens in the first phase of evacuation. These ships have been suitably modified to accommodate women and children on board, as well as senior citizens if any.
According to the Indian Navy, around 1000 persons are expected to be evacuated in the first trip and the COVID-19 protocols will be suitably followed. There will be medical facilities available onboard.
On return to India the ships will dock in Kochi where the passengers will disembark and will be handed over to the state authorities.
The Indian Navy has the expertise to carry out such operations. Previously it was part of the Op Sukoon (2006) and Op Rahat (2015).