The Vande Bharat mission, which many are citing as the largest repatriation mission since the Kuwait airlift of 1990 has been started in earnest by the Government of India. The mission is aiming to bring back stranded citizens and students abroad who are stuck because of the restrictions of travel due to the global Coronavirus pandemic.
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The first batch of such students, 168 in number and stranded in Bangladesh left for their home in Srinagar aboard a special Air India flight on Friday. The Indian High Commission in Bangladesh expressed in a statement that the first phase of repatriation would be conducted all through next week with 7 chartered flights carrying 170 passengers each. Flights for Srinagar will leave on may 8,12, and 13; flights to Delhi on may 9 and 11; flight to Mumbai on may 10 and to Chennai on May 14. the Commission has also launched a dedicated link on its website for residents looking to return to India.
The High Commissioner Riva Ganguly Das updated in a post on Twitter that the flight is “carrying only students. The students are enrolled in medical colleges in the country. We were in constant touch with them and their colleges have also taken good care of them.”
With flights banned in Bangladesh till May 16th to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus, the repatriation began under a special agreement between the two countries. The Bangladeshi Government has already repatriated 2000 citizens from India with 14 flights with 9 more such flights being planned to bring back the rest of the Bangladeshi nationals stranded in India.
The pro-active nature of the government to bring back stranded citizens and NRI’s outside India should be lauded but it also brings to question the way the migrant labourers are being treated with apathy within India by the government. The Karnataka government refusing to let labourers go back due to pressure from the building lobby, The BJP government charging train fares, and the horrific incident In Aurangabad today where migrant labourers walking back to their homes on train tracks were crushed by a freight train with 16 dead.
All these incidents bring into question the government’s dedication to helping the poor during times of crisis and the lack of importance they have given to their lives. One can only hope that the approach given to stranded Indians abroad is given to the working class within our country by the government soon.