New Delhi: The government of India will charge up to Rs 1 lakh for evacuation of stranded Indians from foreign countries and the cost will be decided on the basis of flight hours.
During a virtual press conference on Tuesday, civil aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri said more than 2 lakh Indian citizens who have been stranded abroad because of the coronavirus lockdown will be brought home in special flights starting from May 7.
He cannot confirm the exact number but it will be more than 2 lakh that the government had initially estimated.
“The initial evacuation was confined to 200,000 people who wished to come back. As other states and ministries got involved, the number of people who expressed to travel increased,” he said, adding that the final number will be based on logistics.
The huge numbers involved would make it one of the world’s largest repatriation exercises, and Puri said it would need for facilities to be upgraded at a fast pace to keep up.
The Indians abroad who wish to come back will have to pay for their own tickets, and the minister gave estimated cost of the travel.
Taking a flight from London to Mumbai or Delhi or Bengaluru will cost around Rs 50,000, while travelling from Newark, Chicago or San Francisco will cost Rs 1 lakh. “This is a special mission, and all those who avail of this will be charged,” said the minister.
The full flight plan released by the ministry shows that tickets from Dubai and Abu Dhabi will cost Rs 13,000 and Rs 15,000 respectively, while the price for tickets from Singapore has been set at Rs 20,000 for flights to Delhi and Ahmedabad and Rs 18,000 for Bengaluru.
The dates of the flights, the minister said, will depend on their duration. The government also plans to send citizens of other countries stuck in India because of the airspace closures in the outbound flights.
Over 14,800 Indians in 13 countries will be brought back by 64 flights in the first week alone, the minister confirmed, as News18 had reported earlier in the day. Flights from India will go to US, the Philippines, Singapore, Bangladesh, UAE, UK, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Singapore, Oman, Bahrain and Kuwait.
Of the 64 flights, 15 flights from seven countries will come to Kerala, while 11 flights each will come to Tamil Nadu and Delhi.
Depending on the aircraft being operated, each flight will have between 200 and 300 passengers to ensure that social distancing is maintained.
Before boarding the special flights, the passengers need to declare whether they have fever, cough, diabetes or any respiratory disease.
On their arrival, the passengers will be screened again and will have to be subjected to 14-day quarantine either in a hospital or a government facility.
The Centre said private airlines may also be roped in for the repatriation process because of the large numbers involved.
The Indian Navy is also involved in the process and three of its ships will sail out for Indian nationals in West Asia and the Maldives. (Inputs from News18.com)