A mother can’t remain impassive to the needs of her children. Finally, India sent cheers to her citizens stranded abroad through a positive response to their distress calls for return to home. On May 4, the Ministry of Home Affairs announced to begin the process, in a phased manner starting May 7, for repatriation of Indian nationals from abroad on compelling grounds. Early this month, the petitions filed with the Supreme Court for repatriation of Indian nationals stuck overseas were dismissed citing the nationwide lockdown, the rising COVID19 graph, and the country’s limited healthcare resources as unavoidable reason for the unfeasibility of evacuating them. However, the Ministry of External Affairs gave in to the mounting pressure of the growing distress among India’s senior citizens, students, laid-off professionals and jobless migrant workers stranded abroad.
In discussion with Indian consulates abroad, the Civil Aviation Minister and Air India, the Foreign Ministry has reportedly worked on a detailed evacuation plan for the stranded and distressed citizens. Harsh Vardhan Shringla, the Foreign Secretary of India, presented the plan with such details as estimated counts of Indians stranded in different countries and numbers of special flights that need to be arranged for selective evacuation of them to top government officials including state chief ministers.
The plan for repatriation flights to India from USA and other countries mandates two conditions for those seeking to return home from abroad. Only asymptomatic individuals will be allowed to board special flights at origin airports. They will have to undergo medical screening before boarding. All the passengers on board will be required to follow mandatory health protocols to be issued by the Ministry of Civil Aviation. Upon arrival in India, they will have to download the Ministry of Health’s Aarogya Setu App and register on it. Medical screening of the passengers will also be done in India. 14-day quarantine is mandatory for whoever returns from abroad in a hospital or an institutional quarantine facility.
The other condition is that those seeking repatriation to India from USA and other countries will have to pay the fare for special or regular flights. The fare may vary from country to country, and depending on their final destinations in India. The special fare for evacuation flights to India is expected to be not as high as US government-organized repatriation flights for US citizens stranded in India.
Not only stranded Indian nationals, but also those Indians who want to visit their ailing parents in India or wish to return home for some unavoidable ‘humanitarian’ reason can register for special flights to be organized by the government of India. Special ‘evacuation’ flights to India from USA and other countries will be planned based on the degree of feasibility for state government officials to receive them and quarantine them if needed.
Indian missions have been directed to register the details of Indian nationals seeking evacuation or repatriation. The Consulate General of India in Atlanta, Chicago, Houston and San Francisco has started registration of Indian nationals stranded in the United States. Those from Kentucky, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, DC, and District of Columbia can register themselves with the Embassy of India in Washington DC for special evacuation/repatriation flights to India. The Consulate General of India in New York has not yet posted any update on its website.
2.76 lakh expatriates from Kerala in 150 countries have registered for repatriation flights, according to Times Now News. Kerala, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Gujarat and Rajasthan have sizeable numbers of expatriates abroad. The COVID19 help lines of the states have received thousands of distress calls and messages. The government of Kerala is ready to receive its diaspora amid the COVID19 pandemic.
With the strategic plans ready for special flights to India from USA, the Gulf and other countries for evacuation/repatriation of Indians, the foreign ministry and the civil aviation ministry are advising state governments to make proper arrangements for onward movement, medical screening and quarantine of those returnees from abroad.
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