New Delhi: The Narendra Modi government has no “concrete plan” to bring back Indian nationals who are stranded across the globe even as it considers making a move once the nationwide Covid-19 lockdown is lifted on 3 May, ThePrint has learnt.
“There is no concrete plan… The government is considering a plan to bring back stranded Indians when the conditions are appropriate for such a return,” a top government official said on condition of anonymity.
Several thousand Indians, including students on short-term visas, are presently stranded abroad as they could not return home owing to the 40-day lockdown in India as well travel restrictions put in place everywhere to contain the spread of Covid-19.
While India did repatriate some of its nationals, including students from Europe, China, Iran and others, in early March, New Delhi halted the process with the announcement of the lockdown on 24 March, and complete restrictions on air travel.
States’ capacity to absorb
According to a second official, the idea is to bring back the Indian nationals “immediately” after the lockdown is lifted on 3 May but “before the normal resumption of air travel”.
However, such a move will depend on the capacity of states to absorb these people who are likely to be sent to the individual states they come from, the second official said. “If the states are incapable to absorb them and take proper care in terms of quarantining them for two weeks and have them tested, then it can be difficult.”
When the move comes, special flights will be flown for the purpose and in some cases people will be asked to pay for the travel upon their return, added the official.
The Ministry of External Affairs has started the process of consultation with the states for bringing back the Indian nationals.
According to Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba, a decision on this would be taken after getting feedback on the “preparedness of the states to receive such people and taking into consideration all required health precautions”.
Gauba is believed to have said this during a video conference interaction with the chief secretaries of all states and Union territories Saturday, said the sources.
They added that Indians are stranded across the world, from the “Caribbean islands to Australia”, even as the government has asked them “stay put” where they are and “be patient”.
Earlier this month, the UAE government offered to assist India in bringing stranded nationals back home. But New Delhi turned down the offer.