Over five lakh Indians have so far returned home from 137 countries after the government launched the “Vande Bharat” evacuation mission on May 7 in view of the Coronavirus pandemic, the Ministry of External Affairs said on Friday.
The ministry said, “Considering that the initial target to bring stranded Indians with compelling reasons was only 2 lakh, this is a significant achievement.”
The MEA spokesperson, Anurag Srivastava, also tweeted, “A record 5 lakh+ stranded Indians have returned safely to India till date, under the #VandeBharatMission, a massive operation which is being carried out with the active support & cooperation of Indian Missions abroad, @MoCA_GoI, MHA, @MoHFW_INDIA and state governments.”
Notably, Vande Bharat mission’s first phase was launched from May 7 to 15, while the second phase of the mission was scheduled from May 17 to 22, but it was extended till June 10. The third phase of the exercise, however, was scheduled from June 11 to July 2.
Under this evacuation policy, Indians having “compelling reasons” to return like pregnant women, elderly people, students and those facing the prospect of deportation were being brought back home amid the COVID-19 pandemic situation.
According to the MEA statement, a total of 5,03,990 stranded Indians from 137 countries have returned to India after the commencement of the mega evacuation mission.
Kerala received a maximum of 94,085 stranded Indians, followed by Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Gujarat, and Andhra Pradesh, it said.
“The largest number of stranded Indians returned by Vande Bharat Mission flights are from UAE (57,305), followed by Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and the U.S. and from Nepal (91,193) have returned through land border check posts,” the MEA is quoted as saying by PTI.
The statement further said that the evacuation mission involved 860 Air India flights, 1,256 chartered flights, and eight naval ships.
Out of the total returnees, 95,220 came back through land border check-posts from neighbouring countries, it added.