Evacuation of expat Indians from abroad will be carried out by commercial flights: Ex-diplomat

The Indian flights to operate from this week to evacuate nationals from all over the world will be commercial in nature. Informed sources on Tuesday clarified that the largest-ever evacuation of expat Indians from abroad will be carried out by “non-scheduled commercial flights” that will allow only those passengers on board who can buy tickets. The commercial condition has drawn criticism from a veteran diplomat who played a crucial role in evacuation of Indians during the 1990 Gulf crisis.

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The sources indicated that they are aware of the hardships that expats are facing because of global economic downturn and the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic saying the States and Central ministries will receive database for future employment of the returning expats who have lost jobs in the Gulf.

1990 operation

The planned evacuation of Indians from the Gulf is set to commence from May 7 but unlike the operation of 1990 Gulf War the Indian nationals will have to pay for boarding the aircraft that will fly them home. According to available information, passengers boarding the Kuwait-Ahmedabad flight will have to pay around ₹20,000 and passengers for the Abu Dhabi-Kochi and Dubai-Kochi flights will have to pay around ₹15,000.

The Hindu reported on Tuesday that at least 60 “non-scheduled commercial” flights will operate from 12 countries to bring back 15,000 citizens. Around half of these early flights will take off from the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman, countries where a large number of blue collar workers are at present facing financial difficulties. The flights from the U.K. and the United States to India are in the range of ₹50,000 to ₹1,00,000.

Former Indian ambassador K.P. Fabian, who was the Joint Secretary of the Gulf Division in the Ministry of External Affairs during the 1990 Gulf War, said this was going to place the expats in a difficult position as many of them were facing financial hardships.

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“In the 1990 we had taken a decision that the Government of India will bear the expenditure for the entire operation. We did not have a contractual arrangement with Air India but it was a smooth tie-up as the Ministries of Civil Aviation, Finance and the MEA coordinated. After the operation, MEA paid Air India for the airlift,” said Mr. Fabian who travelled to Baghdad where he and External Affairs Minister, the late Inder Kumar Gujral, met with Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein to ensure smooth conduct of the mission.

Mr. Fabian also visited Jordan subsequently to work on the logistics of the plan which led to the airlift of around 1,76,000 people by civilian airliners. The operation remains a record till now. He pointed out that there are significant differences between 1990 and the present scenario but the humanitarian angle remains the same which should be prioritised.

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He said the Gulf economies were facing a downturn and there were reports of job losses suffered by Indians. “The government should have first enquired if they are in a position to bear the necessary expenses for returning home by air.”

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Printable version | Oct 20, 2021 2:57:06 AM |

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