The Centre and the West Bengal government were locked in a war of words on Thursday as the Trinamool Congress accused the BJP-led central government of not scheduling any repatriation flight to West Bengal.
TMC secretary general and state education minister Partha Chatterjee tweeted Thursday evening, “Is the MEA asking us to believe that there are enough people to come from Georgia to Gujrat but none want to come to Kolkata ? Also, there are enough people to come back to Bihar from Kyrgyzstan but not enough to bring back to Bengal?? Stop this injustice !!!” He then used the hashtag “#MithyebadiBJP”, calling BJP “liar”.
So far, 229 repatriation flights have been announced by the central government — as per the MEA website — from May 7 to June 3. But not a single flight lands in West Bengal. Many residents of West Bengal have tweeted, complaining about this.
Within hours of Chatterjee’s tweet, MEA spokesperson Anurag Srivastava replied to the West Bengal minister. “MEA does not discriminate between states. GOI’s Vande Bharat Mission is for all stranded Indians, including those from West Bengal. Over 3700 of them have registered for repatriation from different parts of the world,” he tweeted.
“Will gladly facilitate flights to Kolkata if state government will confirm arrangements to receive and quarantine. Will also help in return of WB residents through land borders with neighbors. We hope to receive an early response on the matter,” the MEA spokesperson tweeted and tagged West Bengal’s Home Secretary and the Civil Aviation ministry. This was retweeted by External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar.
In the first phase from May 7 to 15, 64 repatriation flights were flown. Out of them, 15 went to Kerala, 11 each to Delhi and Tamil Nadu, seven each to Maharashtra and Telangana, and the remaining flights flew to Gujarat, Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir, Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh.
In the second phase from May 16 to 22, 31 flights are to land in Kerala, 22 in Delhi, 17 in Karnataka, 16 in Telangana, 14 in Gujarat, 12 in Rajasthan, nine in Andhra Pradesh, seven in Punjab, six each in Bihar and UP, three in Odisha, two in Chandigarh and one each in J&K, Mumbai and MP.
Earlier, the MEA spokesperson said Vande Bharat Mission is the largest and most complex exercise ever undertaken by the government for repatriation of Indian nationals stranded overseas. “In the last few days, more than 12,000 Indian nationals have safely returned,” he said.
“We are launching the second phase of Vande Bharat Mission from 16-22 May. In this phase, we will bring back Indians from 31 countries. 149 flights including feeder flights will be deployed. Additional 18 countries covered under the second phase include Indonesia, Thailand, Australia, Italy, France, Germany, Ireland, Canada, Japan, Nigeria, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Krgyzstan, Belarus, Georgia, Tajikistan and Armenia. As you can see, we are broadening the ambit every week in a phased manner keeping with our quarantine capacity, health protocols, etc. Till now 188,646 Indian nationals have registered to return on the portal,” he said.