Navy sends two ships to Maldives to bring back 8,000 Indian nationals
New Delhi: The Union government is launching India’s biggest evacuation plan to bring back its citizens stranded in foreign countries since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. To start with the Indian Navy and Air India are bringing back around 16,000 Indians struck in 13 countries.
This massive evacuation plan was kicked off on Tuesday with the Indian Navy launching Operation Samudra Setu (Sea Bridge) by sending two ships to the Maldives to bring back 1,000 Indians stranded on the island nation after COVID19 pandemic.
Air India too is set to operate 64 flights from May 7 to May 13 to bring back around 15,000 Indian nationals stranded in 12 countries including Middle East, UK, US, Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines and Bangladesh, said civil aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri on Tuesday.
The minister said that private Indian airlines may join the effort after May 13.
Those availing the repatriation flights will be charged. The Home Ministry in a notification said that only asymptomatic persons will be allowed to board flights or ships and will give an undertaking to undergo mandatory quarantine for 14 days on arrival in India at their own cost. They will also have to download the Arogya Setu app.
Priority will be given to compelling cases, including migrant workers who have been laid off, students, persons with medical emergency, the elderly and those required to return India due to the death of family members, said the home ministry.
India’s biggest evacuation plan was in 1990 when it brought back 1.7 lakh citizens after Iraq attacked Kuwait.
Indian Navy’s ships Jalashwa and Magar will commence evacuation operations from May 8 from Maldives as part of phase-1. A total of 1000 persons are planned to be evacuated during the first trip due to social distancing norms and medical facilities available on board.
The Indian mission in Maldives is preparing a list of Indian nationals to be evacuated by naval ships. “The ships have been suitably provisioned for the evacuation operation. The evacuated personnel would be provided the basic amenities and medical facilities during the sea-passage. In view of the unique challenges associated with COVID-19 stringent protocols have also been stipulated,” said Indian Navy officials.
The evacuated personnel will be disembarked at Kochi and will be entrusted to the care of state authorities. This operation is being progressed in close coordination with the ministries of defence, external affairs, home affairs, health and state governments.
Puri said India will conduct 10 flights to the UAE, seven flights each to the US and the UK, five flights to Saudi Arabia, five flights to Singapore and two flights to Qatar to repatriate Indian nationals between May 7 and May 13. During this time period, India will also conduct seven flights each to Malaysia and Bangladesh, five flights each to Kuwait and Philippines, two flights each to Oman and Bahrain. A passenger on a London-Delhi flight will be charged Rs 50,000 and on a Dhaka-Delhi flight Rs 12,000.