By Sajeev K Peter
KUWAIT: As the Indian government braces for a mammoth exercise of repatriating non-resident Indians from abroad on a ‘priority basis’, some Indian states are seeking repatriation of their communities without any further delays. India’s ministry of external affairs has reportedly prepared an evacuation plan and is waiting for the clearance from the government to put the plan into action.
States like Kerala, Punjab, Goa, Rajasthan, Telangana and Tamil Nadu with larger overseas communities have expressed keenness in starting repatriations as soon as possible in strict compliance with COVID-19 safety and security protocols. While the state of Kerala announced that it is fully prepared to receive non-resident Keralites who wish to come back from overseas, NORKA (Non-Resident Keralites Affairs) has started registration of people who are stranded abroad following the outbreak of COVID-19 and subsequent lockdowns.
“The repatriation will be on a priority basis,” said N Ajithkumar, Director of Kerala Pravasi Welfare Board. “Pregnant women, senior citizens, people affected with diseases other than COVID-19, people whose visas have expired, those who went abroad on visit visas and got stuck and people who are facing various difficulties will be given priority,” he pointed out. However, he clarified that people need not hurry as no priority will be given to those who register first. NRIs have to register on the website www.norkaroots.org.
Ajithkumar said repatriation will commence as soon as the India government opens its airspace to airlines. According to initial reports, more than 150,000 Indians in various countries have already registered in 24 hours of the opening of registration. Out of 900,000 Indian residents in Kuwait, approximately 450,000 are from Kerala.
According to reports from New Delhi, India’s Foreign Secretary Harsh Shringla has prepared an elaborate evacuation plan on how the ministry plans to bring home Indians from abroad, with an exact count of who is where and how many flights it would take from each country to various states in India. Indians stuck in foreign countries will be brought home on chartered flights. The report said the survey of those who want to return is under progress.
India’s ministry of external affairs has opened control rooms for repatriating expats and has sought opinions from state governments on the exercise of bringing back those who are stranded abroad. However, it is insisting that people should come back with COVID-19 negative certificates to help the administration. Indian missions abroad were reportedly asked to prepare lists and prioritize the evacuation of all Indian nationals per flight that would take off from their respective stations.