Amid the pandemic, the Indian government has reiterated its commitment to the welfare and protection of Indians abroad via the Vande Bharat Mission to bring back Indian countrymen and women home. A total of 45,82,043 people from 98 countries have returned to India with maximum returnees from Kerela followed by Delhi, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar told parliament on March 15, 2021. The UAE is the country from where the maximum number of stranded Indians returned, followed by Saudi Arabia, USA and Qatar.
The Modi government aims to ensure necessary amenities to the NRIs and PIOs like food, shelter and transportation to supplying masks, PPEs, medical support and even facilitating hospital stays. “While organizing the return home, the Government also focused on ensuring that our people were provided the necessary amenities in foreign countries. This applied to those awaiting repatriation as well as those who stayed behind,” said Mr Jaishankar. “It involved a vast range of activities that were coordinated by our Embassies and High Commissions. They included providing food, shelter and transportation to supplying masks, PPEs, medical support and even facilitating hospital stays,” he said.
“The provision of medical supplies and food items from India as an exceptional gesture to the Gulf during this period clearly had a powerful resonance. So did the arrival of health professionals and medical staff, especially the dedicated medical team we sent to Kuwait”, said the minister.
Air bubble agreement
The Government of India has concluded air transport bubbles that are temporary reciprocal arrangements for commercial passenger services until the resumption of regular international flights. Such arrangements have been concluded with 27 nations so far. The Air India group alone has operated more than 9500 flights, taking 1.09 million passengers abroad. The largest numbers have gone to the Gulf.
“We have been active in urging our partner governments to look sympathetically at the employment of our citizens as they chart their own recovery pathway. The Government is fully cognizant of the employment concerns that our people abroad have in the context of the COVID pandemic. Especially in the Gulf, there has been tremendous economic and social disruption that has impacted them,” said Mr Jaishankar.
Welfare of Students
“The welfare of students studying abroad has also been of particular concern to us. Across the world, our Embassies were given instructions to reach out to them, monitor their situation and assist their return, where required. As with workers and professionals, the focus has now shifted to their going back to universities”, Mr Jaishankar said.
“Seafarers have been another category requiring particular attention. We have worked with shipping companies across the world to ensure their well-being and where required, return to India”, he added.
“The COVID pandemic was a test of our commitment on this matter, as on so many others. And whether it was the problem of the worker or the student, the professional or the tourist, we have risen to the occasion. A huge collective effort by nameless and faceless individuals from our embassies and other organizations – in India and abroad – made that possible”, asserted Mr Jaishankar.
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