India has announced the third phase of its repatriation mission, Vande Bharat. In this phase, Air India is set to operate 70 flights from the US and Canada to bring back stranded citizens. This comes as India is repatriating thousands daily from a number of countries. Let’s find out more.
In recent weeks India has expanded its repatriation goals, pushing to bring more citizens home. The country aims to bring back 100,000 citizens by the end of the second phase, over double the original goal of 47,000. As of yesterday, India has repatriated 57,000 citizens.
Despite COVID19 & the lockdown, our efforts to serve the nation didn’t cease but just took a different form.
The Vande Bharat Mission has already evacuated more than 50,000 stranded & distressed Indian citizens. We are now preparing to significantly increase these flights.
— Hardeep Singh Puri (@HardeepSPuri) June 1, 2020
India is meeting this expanded goal by not only ramping up the number of Air India flights but also roping in private carriers. Private airlines have received permission to fly 180 flights from the Middle East to India. As the third phase starts, we could see private airlines being further involved in the process.
Demand remains sky high
India’s decision to increase capacity significantly is not surprising when looking at the demand for rescue flights. According to the Ministry of External Affairs, over 308,000 Indians have registered for repatriation flights and have compelling reasons to return.
However, this does not include thousands of Indians who are stranded but do not fall under the compelling reasons category. While the government has not released the total number of Indians who have registered, this number could be over a million citizens.
The Middle East has emerged as a significant region for Indian repatriation. Over 200,000 citizens have registered for repatriation from UAE and another 60,000 from Saudi Arabia. It is probable that other Gulf states have similar numbers, highlighting the scale of demand. As phase three is set to begin, it is unclear how many more flights from the Middle East will be added.
Phase Three set to begin soon
India will begin Phase Three of the repatriation efforts on June 11th and will continue until June 30th. Details about this phase are yet to emerge, however, we do know that at least 70 flights to the US and Canada will be operated. More details are likely to be announced in the coming weeks, which could include more flights and destinations.
India has quite the task ahead of itself, planning thousands of flights from over 60 countries all over the world. However, even if India does reach its goal of 100,000 citizens repatriated, this figure falls far short of even the number of people officially registered.
By operating only repatriation flights, India is likely trying to control the flow of returnees to prevent a spike in imported cases. However, without international flights resuming soon, India will continue to face a shortage of flights.
What do you think about India’s repatriation plans? Have you taken a repatriation flight or are planning to take one? Let us know in the comments below.