Over 6.7 lakh Indians have returned under Vande Bharat mission, says Ministry of External Affairs

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NEW DELHI: Over 6.87 lakh Indians have returned from abroad after the government launched the “Vande Bharat” evacuation mission on May 7 in view of the coronavirus pandemic, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said on Thursday.

The fourth phase of the Vande Bharat mission, which is currently underway, has been augmented with the addition of around 120 flights between July 15-31, MEA Spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said at a media briefing.

“These additional flights will cater to the demand for repatriation from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, Malaysia, Singapore, the UK, Europe, Kyrgyzstan and Ukraine,” Srivastava said.

With this augmentation, this phase now has 751 international flights catering to 34 airports in India, he said.

“If feeder flights to different states are included, there would be a total of 926 flights under the fourth phase. These include around 180 flights by Indian private carriers IndiGo, GoAir and SpiceJet,” Srivastava said.

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“As of 15th July, 6,87,467 Indian nationals have returned. 1,01,014 nationals have returned from Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh by land borders. The number of returnees by Indian naval ships from Maldives, Sri Lanka and Iran stands at 3,789,” the MEA Spokesperson said.

The Ministry of Civil Aviation on Thursday announced that they would be starting bilateral air bubbles between India and the US, Germany, France and the UAE, Srivastava said.

This will allow airlines of both sides to carry passengers to each other under defined conditions, he said.

Some of these air bubbles have been finalised, while others are under negotiation, he added.

“This would help movement of people between these countries and India till international air travel is restored to normalcy,” the MEA Spokesperson said.

The ministry is in regular contact with India’s missions and posts abroad to monitor the demand of repatriation of stranded Indians and for arranging Vande Bharat Mission flights as required, Srivastava said, adding that it was doing this in discussion with the Ministry of Civil Aviation.

The first phase of the mission was carried out from May 7 to 15. The second phase of the evacuation mission was scheduled from May 17 to 22.

However, the government had extended it till June 10. The third phase of the evacuation exercise was scheduled from June 11 to July 2. Currently, the fourth phase of the evacuation mission is going on.

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