The Indian government finally came to the rescue of lakhs of its citizens stranded in US, UK, Malaysia, UAE and Iran. On Monday, the government announced that the repatriation process would start from May 7 onwards. In a press statement, India’s Ministry of Home Affairs declared that the government would be “facilitating the return of Indian nationals stranded abroad on compelling grounds in a phased manner”.
The Indian Embassy opened the registration last week in US, UK, UAE, Iran and Malaysia, asking the Indians stranded abroad to fill a questionnaire clarifying the reason of their moving back home. The magnitude of the issue can be gauged by the number of people who signed up for repatriation. The Indian embassy in UAE reported that it received about 2 lakh registrations in matter of a week. The government said that it would be bringing back people in batches with first preference being given to more vulnerable ones, including pregnant women, old people, citizens with medical urgency, children and those with expired visas or contracts. The number is expected to hit half a million by the end of the second batch.
The government has planned to bring back its nationals both via airways and waterways. As per the reports, first two flights on May 7 would fly from Abu Dhabi to Kochi, followed by Dubai to Kozhikode. Besides, a naval ship has already left for Maldives, in order to bring back about 800 Indians stranded there. The ship would sail from Male to Kochi, covering the distance over a period of 48 hours. It is scheduled to reach India on May 8. The government clarified that the passengers would have to bear the cost of their travel, though it did not disclose the rates of flight seats and ship seats. It is believed that the flight rates would to similar to the ones charged before the lockdown. Those who could not afford flight rates, would be given the option of travelling by ship, which would offer relatively cheaper tickets. The Indian government in its statement emphasised that “only asymptomatic passengers would be allowed to travel”, where as during the travel, the passengers would have to adhere to health protocols including wearing masks and social distancing. As per the orders, all the passengers are expected to download and register themselves on the Aarogya Setu app, as soon as they land in the country. The statement added that once they reach India, from there on their respective state governments would take over and make further arrangements, “including for testing, quarantine and onward movement of the returning Indians”.