Amid COVID-19-induced lockdowns and subsequent international travel bans, the Indian government-led repatriation flights as part of the Vande Bharat Mission have recommenced. Here are all the details. By Presha Mahajan
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In an attempt to help Indians stranded abroad during the pandemic, the Indian government had devised the Vande Bharat Mission initiative last year. This evacuation drive brought back and sent Indians home from foreign lands. This year, amid the second wave of the pandemic, phase two of the rescue mission has been fleshed out once again. The new Vande Bharat flights will repatriate Indians stuck in other countries due to the lockdown and subsequent bans on international travel.
“For Indians stranded across the world, flights under the Vande Bharat Mission have been flights of hope. The undaunted COVID Warriors of the civil aviation sector have facilitated the travel of more than 89.2 lakh people and have successfully managed the world’s largest repatriation mission,” said Hardeep Singh Puri, Civil Aviation Minister of India and Minister of Housing and Urban Affairs in India, in a tweet.
As part of this mission under the Ministry of Civil Aviation, the national carrier Air India flies Indian citizens back home. The second stage of the mission began on June 3, when the first flight flew from Dubai to the Vijayawada Airport in Andhra Pradesh, flying in with 65 Indian passengers on board. Another flight also departed from Bahrain on June 6.
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“#VandeBharatMission: Air India Flight AI 0940 to Delhi departed today from Bahrain International Airport with 118 passengers including two infants on board. Wishing a safe journey to all the passengers. #AirBubbleIndiaBahrain,” tweeted the Embassy of India in Bahrain. Notably, such repatriation flights will continue till October 31.
A roster put together by Air India is shared online. As per India.com, the roster discloses the scheduled dates, timings of departure and arrival of the flights, and the list of countries the flights are catering to, including Sri Lanka, Israel, Singapore, Thailand and Italy among many others. However, not all of these countries have a bilateral pact with India.
Although India had originally planned to bring back around 1,90,000 people, Air India and Air India Express so far exceeded all expectations and played a central role in making this activity the largest of its kind. Civil Aviation Data collected since the commencement of the lockdown states that Vande Bharat Mission has helped almost 8.9 million Indians stuck abroad to date.
Editor’s Note: Keeping the current situation of the pandemic in mind, T+L India recommends every reader to stay safe, and take all government-regulated precautions in case travel at this time is absolutely necessary. Please follow our stories on COVID-19 for all the latest travel guidelines.