What are India’s “Vande Bharat”, “Samudra Setu” missions? Everything you need to know

Several Indian citizens stranded abroad have finally received relief as India decides to go
launch two evacuation plans to retrieve these individuals and bring them back home. In one of the largest evacuation exercises, the government has decided that it will operate 64 flights between May 7 to May 13 for this purpose.

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“Repatriation”

The Minister of External Affairs S Jaishankar had stated earlier that the preparations for the operations had begun and had urged stranded individuals to stay in touch with the Indian embassies in the respective countries.

As all domestic and international flights and transport had been suspended in the lockdown period, the government will be executing the repatriation plan on certain grounds in a phased manner.

“What is the ‘Vande Bharat Mission’ mission about?”

Under the Vande Bharat Mission, seven flights will be operating to the US and UK each, 10 to the UAE, five flights to Singapore, seven flights each to Malaysia and Bangladesh, five flights to Kuwait and Philippines, two flights each to Oman and Bahrain, and two flights to Qatar between 7 May and 13 May.

These flights will be operating from Delhi-NCR, Kerala, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Telengana, Gujarat, Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab. Uttar Pradesh and will be flying nack approximately 2,000 people daily. These flights will be operated by the carrier Air India and its subsidiary Air India Express.

In an order, Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla said priority will be given for return to India to compelling cases in distress, including migrant workers, labourers who have been laid off, and those faced with an expiry of their short term visas. Persons with a medical emergency, pregnant women, elderly, those required to return to India due to the death of a family member, and students would also be given preference, the home ministry said.

Passengers shall be charged Rs 50,000 each for flights operating to London, Rs 12000 for
those operating to Dhaka, for US Rs 1 lakh, and to Dubai will be Rs 13,000.
The MEA has to give the travellers two days’ notice with the schedule of the incoming flights on their website. Air tickets are only to be issued to those on the passenger lists prepared by the respective Embassy or Consulate.

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Further medical screening of the passengers would be conducted before boarding the flights and only asymptomatic passengers would be allowed to travel. Punya Salila Srivastava, a joint secretary in the Union Home Ministry, stated that the stranded Indians who would be brought back by special flights from abroad would have to download the “Aarogya Setu” mobile app and follow all the government-issued health guidelines. During the journey, all passengers will have to follow protocols issued by the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Civil Aviation. The passengers will also have to sign an undertaking to go into a 14-day quarantine on arrival in India. These flights will bring almost 15,000 Indian nationals back to the country.

“What is the Indian Navy’s ‘Operation Samudra Setu’?”

Another operation that will be operated in the Maldives was the Samundra Setu Operation which plans to evacuate almost 1000 people on the first trip itself from the Maldives. The trip will follow all social distancing normas and will have all the required medical facilities.

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“The evacuated personnel will be disembarked at Kochi, Kerala, and entrusted to the care of State authorities,” stated the notice regarding the operation. This operation is being coordinated between the Ministries of Defence, External Affairs, Home Affairs, Health, and various other agencies of the Government of India and State governments.

In Kochi, a defence ministry spokesperson told PTI on Tuesday that a naval ship has been sent to Dubai. The INS Shardul was diverted to Dubai to evacuate the expatriates and it will return to Kochi, he said.

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