Three days after the Government of India said it is making plans to evacuate Indians stranded overseas, the Indian Embassy in the United States Wednesday began contacting the Indian nationals who wish to return home once the international travel lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic is lifted.
The Indian Embassy has started sending emails to the community organisations and those who reached out to it recently. It also provided a website link where interested persons can register their names, but it has not announced any travel date yet. “Those interested in travelling back home can register at indianembassyusa.gov.in/Information_sheet1,” the Embassy said.
In coordination with community leaders, the embassy in US has been helping these stranded Indian citizens with free accommodation, meals and even financial assistance.
“The Indian American community has shown leadership in these difficult times and their spirit of service is commendable. They have been working closely with the Embassy and Consulates to provide assistance to our nationals,” India’s Ambassador to the US, Taranjit Singh Sandhu said in a tweet.
However, there is no official estimate of the number of Indian citizens stranded in the US due to coronavirus but many of them are said to be Indian students, whose universities have now closed down for the rest of the academic sessions and those who were here on a short visit, according to PTI.
On Sunday, the govt also said that the plan will be implemented after the lockdown is over and restrictions on movement will be eased. Sources told The Indian Express the plan is to start the evacuation from the Gulf countries, where nearly 8 million Indians live and work.
Some of these Indians have been petitioning the government for a while. These people include those travelling for tourism, business as well as those whose projects have been completed. While the first phase is likely to start with countries in the Gulf region, Indians stranded in the UK, other parts of Europe, and the US will be considered after that.
Regarding this, the government in India has also started discussions with state governments on preparation quarantine facilities for the returnees. The issue is being handled at the highest level with Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba helming the discussions and officials from the Ministries of External Affairs, Home and Civil Aviation, the state government’s resident commissioners, and Chief Secretaries in states taking part in them.
Sources said that once the plan is implemented, it may turn out to be the largest evacuation operation ever While the numbers are dynamic, they could go up to 2 lakh and the only playbook New Delhi has—in terms of scale— is the 1990 airlift of 1.7 lakh people from Kuwait
However, sources said the evacuation will be staggered and prioritised according to several factors—their need, medical condition, urgency and the concerned state government’s capacity
Only Indians who are Covid-negative will be brought back and a system will be evolved to make sure this criterion is fulfilled. For this, either assistance of local authorities will be taken or special medical teams will be sent
(With ENS inputs)