NEW DELHI: India has brought back 400 passengers from Singapore, 107 from Poland and 250 from Amsterdam — all transit passengers have been brought back to India in the last couple of days, racing against the clock before a comprehensive travel ban kicks in.
The government is still trying to bring back stranded transit passengers from Malaysia and London, official sources said.
In the past couple of days India has had to bring back hundreds of transit passengers stranded in different airports around the world, as different countries, including India, imposed their own travel bans.
While this has been an enormous logistics exercise, it has also resulted in enormous hardships for passengers who have endured hours-long wait at Indian airports for screening, blood tests, etc, before going home or on an isolation routine.
Senior government sources said, “There maybe be many people returning from abroad who would be feeling inconvenienced. The government is fully aware of the situation and is doing its best. Officers and employees are putting in hours and days of work to make their safe return possible.”
Getting back transit passengers is a wholly different set of challenges from bringing back people from high risk notified areas. In addition the government has been running special flights from Iran and Italy after testing the passengers for the virus.
The foreign minister S Jaishankar and foreign secretary Harsh Shringla have been holding separate video conferences with Indian heads of missions in different regions. The government message is that Indian missions have to be more responsive to the concerns of Indian nationals stranded in different cities and airports.
Back in Delhi, the MEA has been working overtime to liaise with the health ministry and home ministry to facilitate and make it easier to bring back Indian nationals who have been caught in an international transit storm trying to beat the clock to return to India. The government has stopped all scheduled commercial flights to India from March 21.