Behind the India’s largest repatriation exercise

Behind the India’s largest repatriation exercise

The Government of India successfully undertook the mammoth repatriation exercise—Vande Bharat—under the shadow of Covid-19, bringing back over five million stranded Indian nationals from across the globe. But not everyone knows it was an "alert" from External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar in February last year that galvanized the ministry and different government departments into action.

"Dr Jaishankar showed tremendous foresight. Before anybody could have anticipated that it is going to be such a big challenge and the scale of it, he alerted us as early as in February (2020)," Akhilesh Mishra, Additional Secretary (DPA) in the Ministry of External Affairs told StratNews Global. "So we had to start our preparation and mental planning very, very, early on," Mishra said, terming the Vande Bharat Mission "history’s largest repatriation exercise".

Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Puri, a former Indian Foreign Service officer who served as India’s Permanent Representative to the UN, tweeted on February 17, saying: "More than 57.3 lakh stranded & distressed citizens facilitated through Vande Bharat Mission since 6 May 2020. More continue to travel every day. The mission continues undaunted."

"Due to Covid-19, we had to handle history’s largest repatriation exercise," Mishra said, adding that the previous biggest exercise was from the Gulf (in 1990), of evacuating 170,000 Indians—110,000 by air and the rest by sea. "While that was localized and basically point to point, in this case we had to deal with Indians who were stranded, students, workers who had lost their jobs and businessmen."

"For Vande Bharat we had to deal with all countries in the world, and at a time when there was a huge sense of uncertainty and anxiety about the (Covid) trends, and all the countries were in lockdown… In many countries, not even the basic SOPs for boarding a plane were in place, many did not have testing protocols in place. We had to coordinate very closely," he added.

While the Ministry of External Affairs was dealing directly with the Vande Bharat Mission, its Development Partnership Administration (DPA) wing was involved in providing medical supplies to 150 countries, and Covid relief, he said. DPA-II deals with Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR).

According to the MEA website, as of January 20, 2021, a total of 36,10,810 Indians were flown in by air, 3,987 Indians by sea and 3,97,106 by land. The Gulf countries accounted for the most number of Indians repatriated—with 15,68,469 coming from the UAE, 3,65,929 from Saudi Arabia, 2,26,660 from Qatar, 2,16,910 from Oman, 1,70,595 from Kuwait, and 56,532 from Bahrain.

From neighbouring South Asian countries, 15,603 Indians arrived from Afghanistan, 26,560 from Bangladesh, 1,801 from Bhutan, 6,147 from Nepal, 683 from Pakistan, 16,667 from Sri Lanka, and 52,248 from the Maldives.

Of the other big countries, 2,50,937 were brought back from the United States of America, 12,593 from Australia, 61,504 from Canada, 1,257 from China, 1,52,913 from the United Kingdom and 10,923 from Russia.

"It was not enough to bring people from one country to Delhi. Every flight coming to Delhi had people from different states, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, UP, Haryana … Each one had to be taken care of, and after the quarantine, the people had to be transported (to their states). The states had made their own arrangements. It was a very complex exercise, and it went off smoothly. Touch wood there were no controversies," Mishra added.

Though the Vande Bharat Mission was launched in May, planning began in February. "Very meticulous details were worked out, like the estimates, and SOPs, with intense consultations with everyone concerned—the different ministries. Nodal officers were appointed in the MEA for dealing with each state, like repatriation of people going to each state. The use of IT solutions was done to keep the state governments and the district level officers and all missions and ministries here in the loop, with sharing of data. Because every flight is a unique case and a unique operation, handling every flight had its own challenges," he said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi praised the Vande Bharat Mission during a brief visit to Kerala last week. "Over 50 lakh Indians came back home under the Vande Bharat Mission. Many of them were from Kerala," he said. As of January 20, 2021, Kerala saw the most Indians repatriated, with 9,62,306, followed by Delhi with 8,35,093, Maharashtra with 3,80,334, Tamil Nadu with 3,44,937 and Uttar Pradesh with 2,59,537. Indians were repatriated across each and every state and union territory, even the Andaman and Nicobar Islands recording 45.

A total of 2,072 Indian nationals died abroad due to Covid, as of December 31, 2020, according to the MEA website. Most of these deaths came from the Arab countries. In Saudi Arabia, 906 Indians died due to Covid, 375 died in the UAE, 34 in Qatar, 166 in Oman, 369 in Kuwait and 48 in Bahrain. Covid deaths of Indians have been mostly in single digits in other countries, except in Italy where 15 Indians died, while 23 each died in Nigeria and Sudan.

In the United States of America that was racked by the Covid pandemic and recorded over 27 million cases and 488,000 deaths, there was no record of any Indian death till December 31, 2020; ditto for the United Kingdom, and China, where the pandemic originated.

Among neighbouring countries, Afghanistan recorded three Covid deaths of Indian nationals, Bangladesh one and Nepal nine.

"Vande Bharat has been a complex exercise… Every individual who landed had to be accounted for," Mishra said.

The repatriated passengers bore the flight and quarantine costs. For those who couldn’t pay, the charges were borne by their respective state governments. "This has been a really enriching experience for us: how to work as a system, as a team," the official added.

Electricity consumption in February amounted to 1.6 bln kWh in Kyrgyzstan
Electricity consumption in February amounted to 1.6 bln kWh in Kyrgyzstan
Number of German enterprises in Uzbekistan increases in last four years
Number of German enterprises in Uzbekistan increases in last four years
Kazakh MFA talks great importance of developing relations with Turkic-speaking countries
Kazakh MFA talks great importance of developing relations with Turkic-speaking countries
Loading Bars
COVAX delivers over 20 mln doses of COVID-19 vaccines to 20 countries - WHO
Interest-free funding regulation may boost Turkey's home sales
Iran records 0.8% economic growth under sanctions, pandemic
2021 Index of Economic Freedom: Georgia 12th in world and 7th in Europe
Electricity consumption in February amounted to 1.6 bln kWh in Kyrgyzstan
Chinese investors have major potential for attracting cargoes to Georgian Anaklia seaport
Belgium announces phased plan to ease COVID-19 restrictions
More than 20,000 U.S. organizations compromised through Microsoft flaw
U.S. detained nearly 100,000 migrants at Mexico border in February
Number of German enterprises in Uzbekistan increases in last four years
Spike in Canada exports to U.S. leads to surprise January trade surplus
Brazil working with Biden on climate, Amazon deforestation - foreign minister
Luxembourg ratifies protocol on tax agreement with Russia
U.S., Britain announce 4-month tariff suspension in aircraft subsidy dispute
Aeroflot to make flights to Seychelles from April 2
Kazakh MFA talks great importance of developing relations with Turkic-speaking countries
Georgia expands list of countries from which tourists can travel to country
Iran to hold talks with EAEU soon
Pfizer vaccine to arrive in Georgia in the week of March 22 - seputy health minister
Turkey registers more than 11 302 new coronavirus cases
Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan ink agreement to step up cooperation in healthcare
Wind energy replaces coal as Germany's biggest energy source in 2020
National Bank of Kazakhstan adopts several anti-crisis measures during COVID-19 pandemic
Azerbaijani FM, head of Baku office of CE exchange views on development of new action plan for cooperation (PHOTO)
Norwegian company discloses amount of investments made in Azerbaijan
BSEC countries discuss impact of pandemic on tourism sector
Azerbaijan’s AzerGold, Chem Trade company sign contract
Georgia-Ireland Council to be important chain for strengthening bilateral economic relations
Uzbekneftegaz, Uzbek-Chinese JV talk prospects for co-op in oil, gas industry
Russia's Rosselkhoznadzor discloses volumes of agricultural products supplied to Georgia
World Bank may support Azerbaijan in fight against COVID-19
Azerbaijan names volume of compulsory non-life insurance market in Jan.2021
Swiss plan free coronavirus tests for population
Liberated Azerbaijani lands have great potential in winemaking
Azerbaijan may apply quarantine measures if COVID-19 infections continue to increase
UK watchdog looks to 'open banking' apps to help boost competition
Georgian mobile operators see decrease in total revenues for 2020
Georgia plans to build hanger in Telavi airport for private jets
Chevron to buy out Noble Midstream in all-stock $1.32 billion deal
Azerbaijani State Security Service shares grief of death of Turkish servicemen
Azerbaijan eyes to start employment promotion activities in liberated areas
Armenia once again demonstrates that it is far from sound thinking - Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry
Initiated by Mehriban Aliyeva, Heydar Aliyev Foundation makes new contribution to protection of world and religious heritage in Vatican (PHOTO)
Azerbaijan's MoD shares footage from Aghdam's Taghybayli village (VIDEO)
Kazakhstan offers Uzbekistan to consider launching production of Kazakh COVID-19 vaccine
Mehriban Aliyeva appointed as first deputy chairperson of New Azerbaijan Party
First website of sign language dictionary to be developed in Azerbaijan
Trans-Caspian Fiber Optic Cable Project discussed at “Kazakhstan-Azerbaijan: New Opportunities for Cooperation” event (PHOTO)
Turkey’s activity on Turkmenistan’s state commodity exchange in Feb. 2021
Iranian parliament approves increase of salaries
Baku International Sea Trade Port expanding co-op with in Netherlands
Azerbaijan's internet provider eyes to expand coverage of communication services
Trade takes up largest share in total turnover of Georgia's business sector
Volume of Azerbaijani Depository Center's Feb. 2021 bond payments revealed
Volume of business sector turnover up in Georgia
Italian companies eye returning to Iranian energy market
Azercell reveals the “Victory Year”s results
Main share of industrial production volume in Baku accounts for extractive sector
Azerbaijan records decrease in Jan. 2021 population's bank deposits
Five impressive facts about OPEC+ meeting
Total amount of transactions on Turkmen state commodity exchange for Feb. 2021
Kazakhstan to hold auctions for selection of flexible generation projects
Azerbaijan's police officers find munitions in liberated Shusha (PHOTO)
Iran reveals COVID-19 data for March 5
Reliability of Azerbaijani data center confirmed by int’l certification institute
Iran receives third batch of Sputnik V vaccine
Iran's Energy Exchange announces products to be on sale on March 6
Azerbaijan confirms 175 more COVID-19 recoveries
Kazakh Kazatomprom to hold additional auction on its solar energy assets
Turkmenistan considers promoting expansion of partnership opportunities within ECO
Hungary eyes increasing medicines supply to Uzbekistan
Azerbaijani PM expresses condolences to Turkish VP over helicopter crash
Azerbaijan's Minister of Economy highlights country's progress in terms of economic freedom
Australia resumes postal communication with Turkmenistan
Azerbaijan holds auction for public property facilities
Volkswagen core brand to accelerate electric vehicle shift
Kazakh airlines launch new flight to Uzbekistan
Uzbekneftegaz, Gazprombank co-op to increase hydrocarbon production
Investment in development of Chabahar Port continues
Britain starts formal countdown in 'final chapter' of Libor
Volume of food products sold in trade network of Azerbaijan’s Baku city increases
Maritime India Summit-2021 celebrates ‘Chabahar Day’
Egyptair to replace Sinai Air on Tel Aviv - Cairo route
US experts visit war-torn areas of Azerbaijan's Tartar (PHOTOS)
Three possible scenarios on economic dev't regarding COVID-19 crisis in Georgia
Kazakhstan reports increase in overall 2020 trade with Greece
Precious metal prices in Azerbaijan down
Small solar photovoltaic station launched in Uzbekistan’s Tashkent region
Kazakh National Bank shares data on money transfers via payment systems for 2020
Azerbaijan's Internet provider increases contribution to country's educational sphere
PASHA Bank talks possible development of 'neo-banks', information security in Azerbaijan
SOCAR becomes main supplier of Lithuanian gasoline to Ukraine
Azerbaijan to study underground water resources through satellite images
Kazakhstan discloses target volume of electricity generation for 2021
Fidelity Investments Inc acquires shares of Bank of Georgia
Deposits dev’t of Turkmenistan’s Uzynada field to increase oil, gas condensate production
Kazakhstan's only lowcoster launching direct flights to Turkey
Azerbaijan names amount of compensations paid to closed banks' depositors
Georgia reports 390 new COVID-19 cases for March 5
Russia documents 11,024 COVID-19 cases in 24 hours
All news