India's mega repatriation plan to bring back stranded citizens begins; first flight to reach Kerala in night

Written By: Sidhant Sibal WION
New Delhi, Delhi, India Published: May 07, 2020, 02.29 PM(IST)

India's control room in UAE for repatriation of Indians. Photograph:( WION )

Story highlights

This is Independent India's largest repatriation mission to bring back its citizens stranded abroad due to COVID-19 pandemic. India will be getting back 1,92,000 people in the first phase of the mammoth exercise with the focus on the Gulf. 

India's mega repatriation plan to bring back thousands of thousands of its stranded nationals from abroad has started with the first flight to land in Kerala in the night. 

1st flight with 175 stranded Indians from abroad will land in Kochi from Abu Dhabi at around 2140 hrs. The Air India Express flight will leave UAE at 1615 local time. The second flight will also be to Kerala, having 175 stranded Indians. It will come from Dubai and land in Kozhikode at around 2230 hr.
 
India will be bringing back around 14600 of its citizens in 64 flights in the first week of the repatriation process.

Flights will get back stranded Indians from 12 countries—6 from the Gulf, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, 3 from ASEAN--Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, 1 from the neighbourhood which is Bangladesh and US, UK. 

Maximum flights will be to Kerala at 15, followed by Tamil Nadu & NCR at 11, Maharashtra and Telangana at 7, Gujarat at 5, Karnataka and J&K at 3 and Punjab and UP at 1.

Focus remains on the gulf where 3 lakh people have registered for repatriation. Of the 64, 25 flights will be coming from the gulf, and of the gulf, 10 flights will come from UAE, which hosts the largest number of Indians globally, many of them blue-collared workers.

The first flight from Saudi Arabia is scheduled to operate from Riyadh to Kozhikode on May 08, 2020, and the other 4 flights would operate on Riyadh-Delhi; Dammam-Kochi; Jeddah-Kochi and Jeddah-Delhi sectors.
 
7 flights will come each from Bangladesh, UK, Malaysia, US, 5 from Singapore, Philipines, Saudi Arabia, 4 from Kuwait, 2 each from Qatar, Bahrain and Oman. 

Meanwhile, Indian Navy's Operation Samudra Setu to evacuate Indians from the Maldives will begin from tomorrow and ahead of that INS Jalashwa has entered Male port.

Indian envoy to Maldives Sunjay Sudhir speaking to WION exclusively on the operation said, "Around midday of 8th of May, the first group of about 700 Indians will set sail back home, back to Kochi, that will be the first lot. After that, we are planning a few other evacuations though Navy ship."

INS Jalashwa Indian Navy's largest Amphibious platform (Landing Platform Dock) can carry 1000 troops. With the current social distancing, norms can carry 500-700 people. The repatriation will be in 2 phases via 2 ships with the first group being taken to Kochi, then Tuticorin. Priority will be given to medical cases, women and those who lost jobs.

The French embassy in a statement said, "During this period of a public health crisis, the Indian and the French navies are fully engaged in the Samudra Setu and Resilience operations respectively to aid people facing the ordeal of the COVID-19 epidemic."
  
Last year the 17th edition of Varuna, the Indo-French naval exercise saw both the Navies reaching a decisive phase in interoperability.

This is Independent India's largest repatriation mission to bring back its citizens stranded abroad due to COVID-19 pandemic. India will be getting back 1,92,000 people in the first phase of the mammoth exercise with the focus on the Gulf. 
 
On Monday India's envoy to UAE Pavan Kapoor speaking exclusively to WION said, "I am glad that we are starting this process of repatriation for those who urgently need to return to India. We look forward to working closely with the UAE authorities to make this process as smooth and efficient as we can."

The largest-ever evacuation carried out by India was the 1990 airlift of Indians from Kuwait during the Gulf War in which 170,000 Indian expatriates were from the west Asian country.

Around 11,000 stranded Indians have registered with Indian mission in Moscow, 1200 in New Zealand, 390 Indian nationals with High Commission of Nairobi, 265 at the Indian mission in Mexico, 2000 at India's mission in Canada and five Indians in Somalia have also registered so that they can get back home. Only asymptomatic passengers would be allowed to travel and Standard Operating Protocol (SOP) for the process had been prepared in this regard.
 
"State Governments are being advised to make arrangements, including for testing, quarantine and onward movement of the returning Indians in their respective States.", MHA in a statement said.

The facilitation will only be on "compelling grounds" and will be done via planes and naval ships on payment basis and non-scheduled commercial flights would be arranged for air travel. During the process of getting back, all health protocols like social distancing norms will have to be followed.

The evacuees after reaching the destination would have to register on the Indian government's Aarogya Setu app which has been developed to alert about COVID-19 crisis and alerts regarding it. 

After being medically screened, they will be quarantined for 14 days in a hospital or an institutional quarantine on payment-basis by the State governments which will be followed by COVID test at the end of the given period.

Earlier this year, India brought back approximately 2500 of its citizens and 48 foreign nationals from China, Japan, Iran and Italy.

2015 Operation Raahat saw India bringing back around 4600 of its citizens while Operation Sankat Mochan of 2016 saw India bringing back 600 of its nationals from South Sudan. 2011 Operation Safe Homecoming to bring back Indians from war-torn Libya saw 15000 Indian nationals being brought back.

The first decade of the century saw Operation Sukoon in which Indian Navy got back 1764 Indians and was the largest evacuation operations conducted by the Navy since World War II.

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