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Vande Bharat: The Big Picture of India’s evacuation plan

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Rajat Paul:

As the global pandemic is moving lethal causing hue and cry, the stranded countryman across the world with no job and food are begging to return to their homeland. Till now the total no of positive cases crossed 38 lakhs with 2,69,567 fatalities globally as of May 8.

What do the stats reveal?

As per the International Migration Report 2019 published by United Nations (Department of Economic and Social Affairs), India hold the top position in the origin country of International migrants with 17.5 Million people making it the strongest diaspora with 6.4% of the total migrant population with over 40 million Indian Americans alone in the USA. This also makes India the highest receiver of remittances from abroad, about USD 83 billion as per the data released by World Bank in 2019 which is likely to fall by 23% for the FY 21 due to COVID-19. This indicates the huge number of Indians leaving abroad.

The situation

The Indian Diaspora of students and low costs laborers stuck in other countries after losing their jobs and no finances to pay for their requisites, thus looking towards their own country as a ray of hope for help. The Indian Government has decided to lift off the largest evacuation mission with an approx. of 190000 stranded peoples within a span of months. It is expected to be bigger than the 1990’s Kuwait airlift and the mission has been started w.e.f 7th may whereby 14,800 nationals will be lifted off from 12 countries with the help of 64 special flights in the first phase. Air India and Air India Express will play the lead role in carrying out the mission by operating “special ferry” flights. The flights have been sanitized and are equipped with proper protection gear for the crew members. There were reports of on-going preparations by the Indian Air Force with about 30 aircraft including the C-17 Globemaster and C-130J Super Hercules are kept on standby mode.

Under the Vande Bharat, operations through the sea route named Samudra Setu also have been started with three Indian navy ships INS JALASHWA, INS MAGAR, and INS SHARDUL on the mission. INS Jakashwa and Magar boarded for the Maldives whereas INS Shardul for Dubai.

The course of action

The Stranded Indian Nationals will be given to board as per the priority guidelines issued by the Government of India, and these are Students, Migrant workers, Pregnant women, elderly, compelling cases of distress, medical emergency, expiry of short term visas, death of a family member. Also, the passengers will have to follow all the pre and post boarding guidelines issued by GOI such that: medical screening before boarding, and only asymptomatic passengers will be allowed, mandatory download of Aarogya Setu App and to sign an undertaking of 14-day quarantine after arrival in India. A fixed amount will be charged by the government for the quarantine facilities.

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) will charge a fixed amount for the distance traveled, such as passengers boarding from the US will have to pay a whopping amount of Rs 1 lakh and Rs 13,000 for those of Dubai. A full chart related to the places, distances, and fares have already been issued by GOI and further notified to the respective nations through Indian Embassies.

The steps are directed towards Indian Government, using its resources whether it be Navy, Air Force, or commercial carrier- Air India to bring back its own stranded Nationals.

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