Vande Bharat Mission: Phase VIII to start soon, 20 lakh Indians repatriated!

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October 30, 2020 9:01 AM

The Ministry, as well as all Missions, are getting ready to initiate the Phase VIII of VBM, especially as the festive season has started and more and more Indians are expected to return.

“This air bubble arrangement will cater especially to the urgent medical requirements of Bangladesh nationals visiting India for treatment,” the official spokesperson added. (File photo: PTI)

The Ministry of External Affairs in close coordination with the Indian Missions and Posts across the globe, along with other ministries and agencies as on October 29, 2020, has repatriated 20.55 lakh Indians. These stranded Indians have come back to the country under the Vande Bharat Mission (VBM) through different modes including – onboard Indian Navy Ships which underwent minor changes to accommodate the civilian passengers, special flights of Air India, also chartered and private flights, and through land border crossings.

The Ministry, as well as all Missions, are getting ready to initiate the Phase VIII of VBM, especially as the festive season has started and more and more Indians are expected to return.

Sharing the details of Phase VII which is ending on Sunday, the official spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) Anurag Srivastava said, “Since October 1, 2020, 1057 international flights would have been operated by the end of this month. These flights are coming from 24 countries carrying almost 1,95,000 persons and will be landing at 22 different airports across the country.”

Flights will also be coming from 18 countries who have `air bubble’ arrangement with India.

India has `air bubble’ arrangements with several countries and has recently concluded an arrangement with Bangladesh. With the air bubble arrangement, the capacity of bringing back the stranded Indians has grown, and has made it easy for the missions to successfully send the Indians who have registered themselves.

India-Bangladesh Air Bubble

From October 28, 2020, the bilateral air bubble between the two countries has been operationalised and there will be two flights– US-Bangla Airlines and these will be flying on the Dhaka-Chennai and Dhaka-Kolkata sectors.

This is the outcome of the discussions during the 6th meeting of the India Bangladesh Joint Consultative Commission, in September, when the two countries had agreed to start an air bubble which would help travellers on both sides during the global pandemic of COVID-19.

“This air bubble arrangement will cater especially to the urgent medical requirements of Bangladesh nationals visiting India for treatment,” the official spokesperson added.

Except for tourist visas, all other visas are being issued by the High Commission of India in Dhaka and additional four Assistant High Commissions in Bangladesh. Soon, major Indian and Bangladesh airlines are expected to start their flights between the two countries in the next few days.

Diplomats the first responders

The success of VBM has been due to the 24×7 coordination exercise which has been undertaken by the Indian Missions where the diplomats have been personally monitoring the repatriation of those stranded Indians till they get on board the different modes of transportation. The diplomats in various missions have the first responders when the global pandemic left several lakhs of Indians stranded across the globe. In March a special COVID Cell was set up which was being manned by young diplomats here in New Delhi, who were responding to phone calls and emails being received. In May 2020, the Vande Bharat Mission was launched to bring them back.

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