Coronavirus | Not feasible to evacuate all Indian citizens from abroad, says government

File photo of Indian nationals after they were brought to India from COVID-19-hit Iran   | Photo Credit: PTI

The government told the Supreme Court on Monday that it is not feasible to evacuate Indian citizens from abroad considering the present situation of the coronavirus outbreak in India.

“Given the present situation of the coronavirus outbreak in India and the available limited resources, it is not feasible to selectively evacuate Indian citizens from abroad when a large number of them from a number of countries want to return back due to various reasons,” the Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement before the Supreme Court.

A Bench led by Chief Justice of India Sharad A. Bobde is hearing separate petitions seeking the evacuation of stranded Indian citizens — students, migrant labourers, fishermen, tourists, etc — from countries like the U.K., Unites States, Iran and the Gulf.

“The severe risk posed by arrivals from an increasing number of countries affected by COVID-19 is something that the government is seeking to minimise. The approach of the government has, therefore, been to advise the Indian nationals to stay put where they are in line with the government’s approach to contain the further spread of the virus within India and allowing health machinery to focus on domestic containment effectively,” the Ministry submitted.

The court, however, admitted the petitions, even asking the government to respond by April 20 to a petition filed by a Nagapattinam resident for the immediate evacuation of 860 fishermen from Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Gujarat who are stranded in Iran due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Bench also asked the government to reply by April 20 to another petition filed by senior advocate Vibha Datta Makhija for bringing back students stranded in the U.S.

The court issued formal notice to the government on other petitions filed separately by Member of Parliament M.K. Raghavan and the Pravasi Legal Cell about the plight of citizens stranded in the Gulf countries without medical and living facilities. The court asked the government to consider the petitions and scheduled a hearing after four weeks.

At one point, the court wondered whether evacuation of citizens from the U.S. would weaken the government’s policy of total travel ban to check the spread of the virus. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta submitted that visas have been extended.

However, Santha Muthulingam, the young mother of three from Nagapattinam whose husband is among the fishermen stranded in Iran, countered that refusing to rescue citizens till they got better was a “Nazi way of doing things.”

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Printable version | Jan 17, 2021 3:38:30 AM |

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