64 AI flights to bring back 14k Indians

64 AI flights to bring back 14k Indians
NEW DELHI, MAY 5 (IANS) | Publish Date: 5/5/2020 12:26:06 PM IST

India is set to embark on one of the largest rescue operations in the world, using naval and air platforms to bring back Indians stranded abroad, with Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri on Tuesday announcing Air India Group will operate 64 flights to 12 countries to bring back over 14,000 stranded people in 7 days from May 7.

During the first week of the mammoth air rescue operation, as many as 14,800 Indian nationals will be brought back, while the total number of people to be repatriated back to India in the entire operations could be more than 190,000, he said.

Addressing the media via video conferencing, the minister said that not only the role of the airline but that of airports and state governments is vital since these authorities have to manage the returning passengers.

On their part, the state governments are required to provide quarantine zones for the returning Indians.

Puri said that in the first week, flights will bring back Indians to 10 states and that services to more states could be started in the coming weeks, depending upon the speed at which facilities are prepared to host these returnees.

He further said that passengers would be required to pay a fixed amount for these flights, since the financial position of Air India is precarious and that the airline requires injection of Rs 500-Rs 600 crore per month for it to stay afloat.

Besides, the minister said that participation of private airlines in the air rescue plans will be taken after the first week of operations.

Puri added that he is aware of the financial constraints being faced by the industry.

However, he did not disclose any timeline for the resumption of domestic operations, but said that these will be opened only after seeing the “behaviour of the virus” and the ground level preparations to handle any situation. 

Centre to SC: Indians stranded abroad will be brought back May 7 onwards

The Centre on Tuesday informed the Supreme Court that May 7 onwards it will begin bringing back Indian citizens stranded due to the nationwide lockdown and travel restrictions in place in various countries.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta informed a bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan comprising Justice S.K. Kaul and B.R. Gavai that only May 7 onwards Indian citizens could be brought back in special flights, including those Indians stuck in Nepal.

The bench was hearing a plea, through video-conferencing, seeking direction to the Centre to ensure safe movement for migrant workers, hailing from Nepal, and stranded in Uttarakhand. On April 30, the petitioner had informed the apex court that around 1,700 migrant workers from Nepal were stranded at the India-Nepal border in Uttarakhand due to the nationwide lockdown. The petitioner urged the Centre to allow them to return to their country.

The apex court noted that the government must know that workers are still stranded at few places, and the government must look into it. The petitioners said 1,000 Nepali workers had to go back. “A large number have been sent back... the remaining 214 have not been sent back”, the petitioner’s counsel submitted in the court.

Mehta told the bench he has got instructions from the Ministry of External Affairs that all Indian citizens stranded abroad, including Nepal, would be brought back from May 7 onwards.

The counsel, appearing for petitioner Ganga Giri Goswami, contended before the bench that around 1,000 Indian citizens are also stranded in Nepal in a precarious situation. The counsel insisted that the government has issued a notification on Monday that they will bring back Indians stranded abroad.

Mehta replied that supply of essentials has been made for Indians stuck in Nepal and the authorities concerned are also in touch with the consulate in Nepal.

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