India has a history of bringing its stranded citizens from abroad in the time of crisis. Once again a massive airlift operation will commence from Thursday to repatriate about 15,000 Indians from 12 countries. Indian citizens have been trapped in different countries worldwide in the wake of the deadly COVID-19 outbreak. In this process, Air India is set to operate 64 special flights from May 7 to May 13. This would be the world’s largest evacuation mission by a country.
The operation, as Foreign Minister S Jaishankar said is titled ‘Vande Bharat Mission’.
India to bring its citizens back
India will be bringing back its stranded citizens from Gulf countries, the UK, US, and others. It is estimated that India would be evacuating about 4,850 stranded Indians from six Gulf countries. Here is a break-up:
- A maximum of 2,000 Indian citizens might land on the Indian soil from the UAE
- 1,000 from Saudi Arabia
- 400 each from Qatar and Bahrain
- 1,000 from Kuwait
- 450 from Oman.
Apart from these numbers,
- An estimated number of 2,100 Indians are to be brought back from the US
- 1,750 from the UK and Malaysia
- 1,400 people will come from Bangladesh
- 1,250 people are set to return from the Philippines and Singapore
64 special flights
Out of the 64 special flights to be operated by Air India, as per the official report, ten flights would be from UAE, seven each from UK, US, Bangladesh, and Malaysia; five each from Saudi Arabia, Singapore, the Philippines, and Kuwait; and two each from Qatar, Bahrain, and Oman.
Passengers need to pay
All the passengers will have to pay for their journey. The US and UK passengers need to pay about Rs 10,000 to Rs 50,000 (per passenger) respectively. Those returning from Singapore have to pay Rs 20,000. Passengers who are coming back from Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Doha to Kochi in Kerala will have to pay Rs 15,000 to 16,000 per passenger.
India presses naval ships for evacuation
India has also pressed its military transport planes and naval ships to evacuate its stranded citizens from abroad. This is the most massive evacuation exercise undertaken by a country during peacetime. India sent off three naval vessels to the Maldives and the UAE.
Follow govt protocol
All the passengers will have to go through medical screening before taking the flight. Only asymptomatic passengers will get permission to travel. All the passengers need to follow protocol issued by the government of India. They will be medically screened after they arrive in India. Then the passengers will be kept in 14-day different quarantine centres.
The glorious history of evacuation
In the past, India had undertaken evacuation operations several times. Here is the list of several operations which was conducted by the government of India.
- Vande Bharat Mission would be the country’s biggest evacuation operation after the Gulf War in 1990. A large number of Indians were trapped in the Gulf War. Air India came forward and handled the rescue operations. It is estimated that over 170,000 people were airlifted from Kuwait.
- Operation Blossom got underway in 2011 when 8,000 Indians were evacuated from Libya by the Indian Navy’s INS Jalashwa and a destroyer INS Mysore.
- Operation Rahat occurred in 2015 in which more than 4,640 stranded Indians were brought back to India from Yemen.
- In Operation Rahat, 960 foreign nationals of 41 countries were also brought back safely by India. The United States had issued a notice to its citizens in Yemen to contact the Indian High Commission for help during the crisis.
- When many Indians were stranded in Wuhan (the epicentre of COVID-19) more than 1,000 Indian citizens were evacuated from Wuhan in February 2020.
Air India did a commendable job in the Gulf War. The aircraft airlifted a large number of people with ease. Therefore, Air India’s name is present in the Guinness Book of World Records for evacuating the maximum people from a country in a limited time.