10 million Indians live in Gulf countries, many of them in port cities

The national carrier Air India and Indian Navy have been asked to be on standby with their aircraft and warships for the mass evacuation of Indians from Gulf countries as COVID-19 pandemic continues.

“We are assessing the scenario and finding the plan to evacuate Indians from the Gulf countries. We have asked Air India and Indian Navy for the detailed evacuation plan,” top government sources told ANI.

Amid coronavirus scare, thousands of Indians have expressed willingness to come back to India from the Gulf countries, but due to suspension of air operations and other modes of travel, they have been stuck there.

India has suspended all kinds of travel till May 3 as the country continues to be under coronavirus-induced lockdown.

Government sources also stressed that “many Indians have contacted the embassies through social media and emails,showing a willingness to return to their homes. The government is doing all possible planning and making arrangements of their evacuation from their destinations.”

“Around 10 million Indians are in Gulf countries and many of them are living in port cities, and that is why the government has also asked the Indian Navy to give a detailed plan for evacuation through sea routes,” sources said.

The Indian Navy, in their detailed evacuation plan, submitted to the government, has mentioned that “the Indian Navy can evacuate 1,500 Indians from the Gulf countries in three warships of the Navy.”

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has already started consultations with the States and Union Territories (UT) for the necessary arrangements starting the process.

“We have started our consultation with the governments of States/ UTs for the necessary arrangements. Similarly, all missions are also told to make a detailed report for those who have shown a willingness to return back to India and provide full assistance to them,” MEA sources told ANI.

According to sources, senior officials from the Ministry of Civil Aviation had given a brief note before a Group of Ministers that, “India has over 500 aircraft and the Indian aviation is capable of the evacuation of Indians from the Gulf nations.”

Majority of the Indians who are stranded in the Gulf countries are labourers. Discussion is underway to determine who will bear the expenses of their evacuation- whether it will be borne by citizens or the central government.

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