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Air India Preparing 18 flights to take foreigners back, but what about the thousands of Indians stranded overseas?

Five countries, U.K. France, Germany, Ireland and Canada have made arrangements with Air India to repatriate their citizens from India,

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Five countries, U.K. France, Germany, Ireland and Canada have made arrangements with Air India to repatriate their citizens from India, but there is no provision made by the Indian government to bring those thousands of Indians who are stranded overseas. What is the reason behind that? Read the complete report here…

According to the sources, Air India will operate 18 charter flights to fly back German, French, Irish and Canadian nationals during the lockdown, while the Indian government is not prepared and has refused to lift its strict ban on any passengers, including Indian citizens, to enter India.

According to the Times of India report, While the Germans and French will be flown to Frankfurt and Paris (AI’s regular stations), the other two nationalities will be taken to London Heathrow from where Canada and Ireland will make further travel arrangements.

Air India has been approached by some countries through their embassies in Delhi to operate special charters to fly their citizens back home. AI has signed contracts with four countries to operate 18 evacuation flights from India to fly their citizens out.

The Air India will have 10 flights to Germany, 6 to Canada, 1 each to France and Ireland respectively making it total 18 flights. “These flights out of India will be carrying their citizens On the way back to India, the aircraft will not have any cargo or any passenger (ferry flight),” Air India chairman Rajiv Bansal said.

You may also read: 317 Europeans Airlifted out of 1600 Foreigners stranded in Goa due to the Lockdown

According to The Hindu, there are thousands of Indians who have been stranded in various countries abroad have been not made any provision by the Indian Government to bring them back due to the lockdown. Five countries, U.K. France, Germany, Ireland and Canada have chartered Air India’s services to repatriate their citizens from India, but flights won’t bring Indians back    

23-year-old Rahul V who is doing his studies in London who is highly disappointed said that despite several flights being operated to the U.K. from April 4 by the national carrier, he cannot return home on them. “The British government is bringing its people home, despite the pandemic, it’s just sad that the Indian government isn’t doing the same,” said an MBA student in East London.             

Indian missions in several other capitals are facing similar questions from thousands of Indian citizens who are stranded and need to return. In Germany, dozens of students recorded a videotaped appeal to the government, offering to pay full fare if Air India flights would accept passengers on the way back. However, the government says it will not change its decision to not allow any passengers, including Indians, to fly here from about 37 coronavirus-affected countries, until the lockdown ends, as it is due to, on April 15.

You may also read: The Efforts are on to evacuate 2000 foreign tourists stranded in Goa

“We are asking stranded Indians to stay put wherever they are in view of local restrictions as well as travel restrictions within India. This is good for their own health and safety as well as that of their family and the larger community,” a Ministry of External Affairs official told The Hindu.       

Among the Indians stranded worldwide the most affected amongst them are the students whose universities had been shut down due to the coronavirus lockdown. The business travellers who were unable to return in time before the shutdown, and tourists who were stopped from boarding when the Indian travel bans went into place.

Although it feels very sad that our government is not helping the fellow Indians to come back to the country but the Indian government also has many limitations. According to the sources, due to the limited quarantine capacity available in India, the Ministry of Health would have to take a decision on whether they can resume flights right after the lockdown is lifted. 

“it will take some days to clear the backlog of passengers given their numbers, depending on how quickly regular commercial flights will be allowed to resume. Many of the passengers will need assistance as they have spent money buying tickets on airlines that cancelled flights and are unable to afford another full-fare ticket,” said the officials.   

“Most of the students here are desperate now and have no money. They are willing to do any job, even if it means catching the virus because they are struggling to survive,” said Mr Rahul, one of the several students The Hindu spoke to.      

On the Indian High Commission’s helpline, and social media portals, several students like Mr Rahul call or write in every day, describing their problems, including details of ailing parents back home, health problems they have, trouble with the long supermarket queues for food, and difficulties in finding accommodation. Officials say they are coordinating their requests as much as possible, and have had to reach out to local NGOs and food aid groups as well as Indian student associations to help.

Source: The Hindu | TOI

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