The Modi government has decided to expand the second phase of “Mission Vande Bharat” to bring back thousands of Indians stranded abroad due to the coronavirus pandemic. So far, the mission has successfully evacuated more than 33,000 people via 177 flights, and aims to bring back around 49,000 people from more than 60 countries till mid-June.
Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said that the government has targeted repatriation of more than 1 lakh Indians till 13 June and has decided to start direct bookings of tickets on Air India’s website around the globe. The government has also given its nod to include private airlines in the third phase of the mission after 13 June. As per reports, around 180 repatriation flights will be operated by private operators (half of them going to IndiGo) to help stranded Indians come back home safely. Being called India’s biggest evacuation mission in peacetime, the first phase of the mission was started from 7-14 May.
During this phase, around 15,000 people were brought back from 12 countries, including the Gulf region as well as the United States, the United Kingdom, the Philippines, Bangladesh, Malaysia and the Maldives. Later, the government launched the second phase on 16 May, which has now been extended till 13 June. In this phase, more than 400 flights will airlift people from 60 countries, including Australia, Canada, Germany, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Britain, the US, etc.
These flights are majorly bound for New Delhi and other major state capitals of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, etc. So far, Air India and its subsidiary Air India Express have successfully managed to bring back 12,560 Indians in 56 flights in the last six days of the second phase of the mission.