Private airlines roped in for second phase of ‘Vande Bharat’ mission


India has roped in private airlines in the second phase of the “Vande Bharat” mission that aims to bring home Indians stranded abroad due to the covid-19 pandemic, a senior Indian official said Thursday.

So far India had brought back more than 45,000 Indians since “Vande Bharat” started on 7 May, Indian foreign ministry spokesman Anurag Srivastava told reporters in New Delhi.

Besides Air India flights, private and chartered flights have also begun to operate and bring back Indians stranded aboard, he said.

Of the 45,000 Indians who have returned, 8,069 are migrant workers, 7,656 are students and 5,107 are professionals, he said.

Separately, about 5,000 Indians have returned through land border immigration checkpoints from Nepal and Bangladesh, he said.

“A total number of 308,200 persons have registered their request with our Missions abroad for repatriation to India on compelling grounds,” Srivastava said adding that in phase two of Vande Bharat mission that started on 16 May and is to end on 13 June, “429 Air India flights from 60 countries are scheduled to land in India.”

“The Indian Navy will be making four more sorties to bring back returnees from Iran, Sri Lanka and the Maldives,” he said.

“We are also assisting return of stranded Indians from remote locations in Latin America and Caribbean, Africa, and parts of Europe. This is being done by taking advantage of foreign carriers flying to India primarily for evacuation of their nationals. Recently, about 300 stranded Indians from Peru, Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Portugal and Netherlands were brought in. We will be exploring more such options,” he added.