New Delhi | Jagran News Desk: Nearly 15,000 Indians stranded abroad are expected to be flown back to the country on 64 flights in the first week of repatriation from May 7, according to the Civil Aviation Ministry.

The Home Ministry had on Monday said that plans to bring back Indians stranded abroad due the coronavirus pandemic have been chalked out by the government and the process will begin from May 7 in a phased manner, adding it will be a paid service.

According to an estimate, the number of Indian nationals stranded abroad could be in lakhs. Their travel would be arranged by the government by aircraft and naval ships.

According to the flight plan by the ministry of external affairs (MEA), 64 flights will be sent to a dozen countries to repatriate students and blue-collar workers among others from abroad.

“So India finally begins to fly back its Citizens home – approximately 2000 persons a day. A sneak peek into the 7-day plan. Punjab has only one incoming flight from Dubai, UAE on the 7,” KBS Sidhu, Punjab special chief secretary, tweeted on Tuesday.

The flights will be sent to the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Malaysia, the UK, Singapore, Bangladesh, the Philippines and the US from May 7, according to the detailed flight plan shared by Sidhu.

A flight from London to Mumbai or Delhi or Bengaluru, for example, will cost around Rs 50,000, while travelling from Chicago or San Francisco will cost around Rs 1 lakh. 

As many as 15 flights will be deployed to bring back resident of Kerala, 11 each for residents of Delhi-NCR and Tamil Nadu, seven each for Maharashtra and Telangana, five for Gujarat, three each for Jammu and Kashmir and Karnataka and one each for Punjab and Uttar Pradesh.

As per the plan, blue-collar workers, including those who have lost jobs in West Asia, such as UAE, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, will be repatriated first, followed by students and Indians. 

According to the Hindustan Times report, 150,000 Indians have registered to return with the Indian missions in the UAE alone and about 45,000 Indians who benefited from a recent visa amnesty will be brought back from Kuwait.

In a statement, the MHA on Monday said only people showing no symptoms of COVID-19 will be allowed to travel. 

After arrival in India, their medical examination will be conducted and they will be subsequently put under quarantine for 14 days, either in a hospital or in an institutional facility, also on payment basis, the statement said.

"The government of India will be facilitating the return of Indian nationals stranded abroad on compelling grounds in a phased manner. The travel would begin from May 7," the statement said.

The government has prepared a Standard Operating Protocol (SOP) and Indian Embassies and High Commissions are preparing a list of distressed Indian citizens in foreign countries.

"This facility would be made available on payment-basis. Non-scheduled commercial flights would be arranged for air travel," the statement said.

Medical screening of passengers would be done before taking the flight and only asymptomatic passengers would be allowed to travel, it added.

During the journey, all passengers would have to follow social distancing and hygiene protocols issued by the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Civil Aviation.

"On reaching the destination, everyone would have to register on the Arogya Setu app. Everyone would be medically screened. After scrutiny, they would be quarantined for 14 days, either in a hospital or in an institutional quarantine on payment-basis, by the concerned state government," the Home Ministry said.

Their COVID test would be done after 14 days and further action would be taken according to health protocols, it said.

The Ministries of External Affairs and Civil Aviation would soon share detailed information about it through their websites.

"The state governments are being advised to make arrangements, including for testing, quarantine and onward movement of the returning Indians in their respective states," it said.

India banned arrival of international flights beginning March 23.

India went in to a 21-day lockdown beginning March 25 in a bid to combat the Coronavirus endemic. The lockdown was extended till May 3 and then again till May 17.

Posted By: abhinav gupta