For Indians stranded abroad, record-setting repatriation exercise begins May 7

Updated on May 05, 2020 04:23 AM IST

The exercise, billed to be the largest repatriation exercise to bring civilians home, will begin from Gulf countries where 70 percent of non-resident Indians live.

India’s evacuation of 1,70,000 civilians from Kuwait during the 1990 Gulf war has been the world’s largest evacuation exercise of civilians by air.(ANI file photo for representation)
India’s evacuation of 1,70,000 civilians from Kuwait during the 1990 Gulf war has been the world’s largest evacuation exercise of civilians by air.(ANI file photo for representation)
Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By

India will begin the repatriation of tens of thousands of Indians stranded abroad from May 7, the government announced on Monday. The exercise, billed to be the largest repatriation exercise to bring civilians home, will begin from Gulf countries where 70 percent of non-resident Indians live.

Government officials told Hindustan Times that the first phase would cover as many as 1,900,000 people. As reported by HT, the repatriation exercise will start from the United Arab Emirates, home to 3.4 million Indians, and move next to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. An official statement said the facility, extended to Indians in distress abroad, would be available on payment basis.

India’s evacuation of 1,70,000 civilians from Kuwait during the 1990 Gulf war has been the world’s largest evacuation exercise of civilians by air. India had then operated a little less than 500 flights, mostly by Air India, over two months. More than 25 years later, the feat also inspired the Akshay Kumar-starrer Bollywood flick ‘Airlift’.

This one is going to be bigger and a lot more complicated, a senior foreign ministry official said. The government won’t just use commercial airlines to run charter flights but also deploy its largest naval warships.

Highlights

Indian missions are preparing list of distressed Indians

Travel would begin from May in a phased manner

Passengers would be screened for Covid-19 before travel

Only asymptomatic passengers would be allowed

All passengers to install Aarogya Setu app

Passengers will be brought to international airport closest to state

Will be sent to paid quarantine facility or hospital for 14 days

Will be tested for Covid-19 at end of 14 days

Scores of foreign ministry officials have been compiling details of distressed Indian citizens abroad for days, prioritising the list of people who should be put on the initial round of flights.

As first reported by Hindustan Times, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had laid down the ground rule last month when he told the foreign ministry to give blue collar workers the first priority. Among them, a foreign ministry official said, those who are facing health problems of any nature, have had a bereavement in the family or cite any other humanitarian ground would be taken in the early round of flights.

As first reported by Hindustan Times, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had laid down the ground rule last month when he told the foreign ministry to give blue collar workers the first priority. Among them, a foreign ministry official said, those who are facing health problems of any nature, have had a bereavement in the family or cite any other humanitarian ground would be taken in the early round of flights.

In this decision, PM Modi had also accounted for the fact that many of the Indians staying in the gulf countries had lost their jobs. Countries such as the UAE and Kuwait had accepted New Delhi’s requests to accommodate the Indians for some more time since the state governments weren’t prepared to deal with the large number of people.

Apart from workers in the Gulf countries, officials said, Indian missions had received requests from thousands of students who were stuck in countries across the world, ranging from the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States of America to Russia, Singapore and Philippines. In Russia alone, an official said, the total strength of Indian students is about 15,000.

India had suspended international flights in March and told Indians abroad to stay put as the country prepped to enter into a lockdown mode. The foreign ministry announcement came as India moved into the third version of this lockdown on Monday, with a lot more relaxations that had been available in the initial two rounds.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Author of Indian Mujahideen: The Enemy Within (2011, Hachette) and Himalayan Face-off: Chinese Assertion and Indian Riposte (2014, Hachette). Awarded K Subrahmanyam Prize for Strategic Studies in 2015 by Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (MP-IDSA) and the 2011 Ben Gurion Prize by Israel.

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