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‘Vande Bharat Mission’ to cover more European nations

New Delhi: Indian nationals, who were stranded in Singapore amid COVID-19 pandemic, wait for screening after they were brought by a special Air India flight at IGI Airport in New Delhi, Friday, May 8, 2020.   | Photo Credit: PTI

The ‘Vande Bharat Mission’ to evacuate Indian citizens is expected to cover Russia, Ukraine, Germany, Spain and east Europe in the third week of May, informed sources said here on Friday. The process of repatriation, which is focused on the Gulf and the South Asian regions, began on Thursday and is expected to involve 64 flights, bringing back 15,000 nationals from different parts of the world through 14 Indian airports.

“As of now, 67,833 requests for repatriation have been registered. The Ministry of External Affairs has developed a dynamic online platform on which requests received by Indian Missions from Indian nationals wishing to return are regularly being uploaded,” said a source with knowledge of the operation scheduled from May 7 to 15. The operation is officially named ‘Vande Bharat Mission’. Following arrival, all Indian citizens will have to spend the mandatory quarantine period in a government facility to avoid spread of COVID-19.

Russia and Ukraine have flown out a substantial number of their citizens from India in the last few weeks, even as several thousand Indians remain stranded in the two countries and east European countries such as Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. A Ukrainian diplomatic source said at least 15,000 Indians are in Ukraine. “Our assessment is that at least 4,000 Indians would be willing to be airlifted from Ukraine.” A number of flights to Thailand are expected to be part of Phase-II.

In Phase-I, the Indian source said 27 flights are scheduled to take off from the Gulf countries and 7 flights from Bangladesh. On Friday, a special Air India charter flight brought 167 students from Dhaka to Srinagar. Most of the students were enrolled in medical schools in the capital of Bangladesh. During the same time, 14 non-scheduled commercial flights are reserved for stranded Indians from Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines. At the same time, seven flights shall take off for New York, Washington, DC, Chicago and San Francisco. Seven other flights will airlift Indians from London.

Official sources also announced a plan for repatriation of Indians aboard INS Jalashwa and INS Magar from the Maldives. The ships will make two voyages to Kochi and Tuticorin. INS Jalashwa, with 698 passengers, is expected to reach Kochi on May 10 in the first round and proceed to Tuticorin, Tamil Nadu. In the current phase of evacuation from the archipelago nation, 1,800-2,000 Indians will be brought back, though 4,500 out of the 27,000 Indians have expressed desire to be evacuated, sources revealed.

Sources expressed satisfaction at the support that the Maldives has extended to India to ensure smooth evacuation of Indian nationals from Male, which is under lockdown.

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Printable version | Dec 5, 2020 3:24:40 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/vande-bharat-mission-to-cover-more-european-nations/article31538151.ece

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