Evacuation of Indian on Air India flights has taken over 1000 Indian citizens stranded abroad on flights from Qatar, the US and Australia (including the Air India flight out of Melbourne on 28 May) .
On Monday, 25 May, taking pride in the effort, India’s Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said through a tweet:
“Vande Bharat – Mission of Hope and Happiness. 833 Indian citizens return on four flights from Doha, San Francisco, Melbourne and Sydney to Delhi, Gaya, Kochi and Ahmedabad on May 25, 2020.”
The Indian government arranged a total of 7 flights from Australia. 3 from Sydney and 4 from Melbourne, including the last one to fly out of Melbourne on 28 May. The Indian government launched the first phase of the Vande Bharat Mission on May 7 to evacuate Indians stranded abroad due to coronavirus induced lockdown.
The second phase started on May 17 and has been extended to June 17. Although the mission runs until at least 17 June, there are no more flights listed to fly Indian nationals from Australia in the rest of second phase between 28 May and 17 June. To check the list click here.
Last week, Puri had said that upwards of 20 thousand Indian citizens have been brought back to the country under the mission so far and the number will rise further in the coming days.
Although the list advertised by Air India shows the program to run between 17 May and 17 June, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) recently announced that the second phase of the mission has been extended to June 13.
“The second phase of this mission began from May 16 onward and this phase will last till June 13. We are looking to bring back our nationals from 47 countries on 162 flights in this phase,” MEA spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said.
“In this phase, we are including places like Istanbul, Ho Chi Minh City, Lagos, etc and also increasing flights to the US and to Europe. We also looking at developing Frankfurt as a hub,”he added.
While the Indian government’s evacuation of Indians on its Air India flights continues as planned, the fear with which COVID-19 has gripped the population is really telling on humanity. When in Mumbai a TV actor was found hanging from ceiling in a bid to commit suicide while still breathing – no one came to help save him while being on the scene taking videos on their phones. In another incident in Delhi, a 65 years old man was found unconscious and left unattended for more than three hours in the middle of a busy market – for fear of infection of COVID-19. He later died in the hospital.