At least 480 students from Maharashtra, most of them pursuing graduate medical courses in Russia who could not make it to the Vande Bharat flights, are set to return to the state on a private chartered flight on Monday.
The students are scheduled to land at Mumbai international airport at 5 am. Royal Flight Boeing 777, chartered by private operator Nixtour, was scheduled to take off from the Moscow airport at 10.30 pm (Indian Standard Time) on Sunday. Among the students arriving, 57 have recently graduated.
Nixtour had made a proposal to the state government to help Maharashtra students return from Russia. “The proposal received quick approvals from the state, the Union government and the Directorate General of Civil Aviation,” said Nixtour Director Nikesh Ranjan.
He added that at least 250 students from Maharashtra still remain to be evacuated, for whom another flight will be proposed later this month.
Flights for students from Bengaluru, Kochi, Delhi and Chennai are also being proposed. “Around 10,000 Indian students study in Russia. As per our estimates, around 4,000 remain to be evacuated,” said Ranjan.
Given only around 150 passengers can board Air India flights, many students from the state have not been able to return home under the Vande Bharat Mission. “In earlier Vande Bharat Mission flights that had arrived in Maharashtra, students from other states had also booked seats… This evacuation is the biggest so far from Russia,” said Yuva Sena member Sainath Durge, who coordinated the initiative on behalf of the Shiv Sena youth wing and the state government.
Mangesh, the son of Mira Bhayander resident Barku Akhadmal, a head constable with the Mumbai Police, is set to return home after nearly a year on Monday. A third-year MBBS student, Mangesh could not get a seat in the Vande Bharat flights. “We are glad that he is returning. He and his friends will quarantine themselves in a hotel for seven days,” said Akhadmal.
As per standing instructions issued to students, they will have to stay at a designated quarantine centre for seven days, followed by seven days of home quarantine.
However, parents of students living outside Mumbai expressed concerns regarding their children staying at quarantine centres in the city. Nagpur-based Vandana Akulwar, whose son Ajinkya will be returning in the flight, said, “Given the number of Covid-19 cases in Mumbai, we are apprehensive. He should have been allowed to come to Nagpur and quarantine here so that we could have been at his disposal if he showed any symptoms.”
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