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India to fly back Bengal residents from Dhaka, days after Centre-state spat over evacuation

A total of 169 Indians are returning by an Air India flight to Kolkata on 18 May under the Vande Bharat Mission

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New Delhi: A total of 169 Indians will be coming back to their homes in West Bengal from Bangladesh Monday even as the Centre and the Mamata Banerjee-led state government continue to squabble over the repatriation of its residents.

According to sources, the 169 Indians are returning by an Air India flight from Dhaka to Kolkata on 18 May under the Vande Bharat Mission.

Since a large number of residents from West Bengal are in Bangladesh, special efforts have been undertaken by the High Commission of India in Dhaka to identify those with compelling reasons to return and accord them due priority, the sources said.

The passengers on the first flight to Kolkata include 73 students, 16 elderly people, 45 stranded tourists, 16 patients with medical emergencies, and one pregnant woman.

Indians who are coming back on this flight were stranded across 18 districts of Bangladesh.

In West Bengal, after completion of quarantine, they will travel to their homes spread across more than 20 districts, right from Paschim Bardhaman in the west to North 24 Parganas in the east and from Purba Medinipur in the south to Jalpaiguri in the north, the sources added.

Also read: India plans to expand repatriation from 15 May to bring back citizens from more countries

Centre-state Twitter spat over evacuation 

The decision comes days after the Centre and the state were engaged in a public spat on Twitter over the issue of arranging flights to bring back stranded residents of West Bengal to the state.

The Centre and the Trinamool Congress have been sparring over several issues emerging out of the pandemic — from testings to adequate lockdown measures and number of deaths being registered.

Last week, West Bengal’s Higher Education Minister Partha Chatterjee tweeted, “Is the MEA (Ministry of External Affairs) asking us to believe that there are enough people to come from Georgia to Gujarat but none want to come to Kolkata? Also, there are enough people to come back to Bihar from Kyrgyzstan but not enough to bring back to Bengal?? Stop this injustice !!!”

To this, the MEA responded by saying it “does not discriminate between states”.

“Will gladly facilitate flights to Kolkata if state government will confirm arrangements to receive and quarantine. Will also help in return of WB residents through land borders with neighbors. We hope to receive an early response on the matter,” tweeted Anurag Srivastava, Spokesperson, MEA.

In the first phase of the Vande Bharat Mission, India has brought back 15,000 citizens from over 12 countries. The second phase, which is now under way, began 16 May. In this phase, Indians from 31 countries will be brought back by operating 149 special flights, including feeder flights.

Also read: 15,000 Indians stranded abroad to be brought back on ‘compelling grounds’

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