Listen to the podcast to know about the first leg of India’s coronavirus evacuation that kick-starts tomorrow and also take a look at 7 major evacuation operations carried out in India’s history
In the biggest-ever evacuation exercise in modern history, India is set to bring back nearly 250,000 nationals home from across the world.
Priority will be given to the Gulf region, but Air India will mount 64 flights from London, Singapore, San Francisco, New York, Washington, Kuala Lumpur, Chicago and some others starting May 7. The Gulf has been made the starting point as nearly 70 per cent of non-resident Indians live there. The government is also planning to send back non residential Indians (NRIs) stuck in India on the same flights.
However, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri told reporters on Tuesday that passengers would have to bear the travel cost.
What are the charges for evacuation?
The Indians stranded abroad will have to pay anything from Rs 12,000 to Rs 1 lakh per ticket depending on their location. While the fare is Rs 50,000 to return from the UK, it is Rs 100,000 for a passenger coming from the US.
Who can travel
Only asymptomatic passengers. Priority will be given to the workers who have lost their livelihood, or have short-term visas and others like expecting mothers and senior citizens with medical conditions.
Process after arrival
Once in India, the people will be tested medically and will be quarantined for 14 days in state-run facilities on payment basis. Travellers will have to register for “Aarogya Setu”
Well, India has a long history of evacuations during wars and natural disasters. Let’s take a look at the 7 biggest rescue and evacuation operations that India has conducted:
India in February and March had evacuated citizens from Wuhan, Iran and Italy.
In Air India’s first medical evacuation, in over 70 years of existence, it flew two flights to Wuhan, China, to bring back the 637 Indians and 7 Maldivians from the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak, on January 31 and February 1. In an evacuation on February 27, Air India brought back 119 Indians and 5 foreign nationals who were on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship, docked off Yokohama, in Japan. In another another operation, the Indian government flew an Indian Air Force C-17 aircraft to Wuhan (on February 26) carrying 15 tonnes of medical assistance including masks, gloves and other medical equipment. On its return, this IAF aircraft also brought back 76 Indians and 36 foreign nationals.
Evacuation from the Gulf: So far, India’s evacuation of civilians from Kuwait during the 1990-91 Gulf war has been the world’s largest evacuation exercise of civilians by air. Around 1,70,000 Indians were caught in the war which left millions homeless and many dead. Air India , at the time, operated around 500 flights over two months. More than 25 years later, the feat inspired the Bollywood flick ‘Airlift’, starring Akshay Kumar.
Operation Raahat: An operation, launched by the Indian Armed Forces, to evacuate 4,640 Indian citizens and 960 foreign nationals of 41 countries from Yemen during the 2015 Yemeni Crisis. There was military intervention by Saudi Arabia and its allies using airstrikes on the national capital, Sana’a. The evacuation by sea began on April 1, 2015 from the port of Aden, while the air evacuation by the Indian Air Force and Air India commenced on April 3, 2015 from Sana’a.
Operation Maitri: It was a rescue and relief operation in Nepal carried out by the government of India and Indian armed forces in the aftermath of the April 2015 Nepal earthquake. India responded within 15 minutes of the quake. The Indian Armed Forces evacuated around 5,188 persons, while nearly 785 foreign tourists were provided transit visa.
Evacuation from Brussels: On the morning of March 22, 2016, three coordinated suicide bombings occurred in Belgium: two at Brussels Airport in Zaventem, and one at Maalbeek metro station in central Brussels. Thirty-two civilians and three perpetrators were killed, and more than 300 people injured. A Jet Airways flight evacuated 242 Indians, including 28 Jet Airways crew members who had been stranded in Brussels. The airline first took around 800 people who had been stranded at the airport after coming in on four different flights, by road to Amsterdam. Two jet flights left for Amsterdam from India. While one brought back 242 passengers to India, the other took off to Newark.
Operation Safe Homecoming: It was an operation launched by the Indian government on February 26, 2011 to evacuate its citizens, fleeing from the Libyan Civil War. The air-sea operation was conducted by the Indian Navy and Air India. Eighteen thousand Indian nationals, working in Libya, were trapped because of the unrest. After the evacuation of more than 15,000 Indian nationals, the operation ended on March 11.
Operation Sukoon was an operation carried out by the Indian Navy to evacuate Indian, Sri Lankan and Nepalese nationals, as well as Lebanese nationals with Indian spouses, from the conflict zone during the 2006 Lebanon War. In one of the largest evacuations conducted by the Indian Navy, a total of 2,280 people including 1,764 Indians, 112 Sri Lankans, 64 Nepalese and 7 Lebanese nationals with Indian spouses were evacuated following the conflict.