Repatriation of more than 4.5 million people from various countries during the Covid-19 lockdown highlights the success of diplomacy of the current government, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar told Parliament on Monday.
Noting that seafarers are also a category that require special attention, the Minister also said that crew change rules pose a challenge but even the issue with crew on the Chinese ports have been successfully resolved.
Jaishankar was speaking on the recent developments pertaining to the welfare of Indians abroad, Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) and persons of Indian Origin (PIOs) during the pandemic.
The Minister said more than 45 lakh persons returned through the Vande Bharat flights run on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s direction. The Central government started the Vande Bharat Mission on May 7 to bring back stranded Indians due to coronavirus pandemic from foreign countries.
Quoting data, Jaishankar said that Kerala received the highest number of returnees who were staying in various foreign countries during the lockdown, or they were stuck due to the emergency restrictions across the world, including India, to avoid the spread of the pandemic.
In the process, the Minister said the government expended Rs 33.5 crore from the Indian Community welfare fund.
“This largest repatriation would not have been possible without partner governments. This highlighted the success of diplomacy of the current government,” Jaishankar said.
He further said that India has confirmed agreements for air bubbles with 27 nations so far, as people and students are returning back.
The government is also urging partner governments to look at the employment of our citizens sympathetically, the Minister said.
Under the Prime Minister’s directions, Jaishankar mentioned how India pushed its effort of providing food items and medicines in the Gulf region while interacting with Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Oman.
“Restoring employment has been the core of our agenda. Welfare of students is high on our priority,” the Minister added.
The Opposition on Monday praised the government’s efforts to bring back people who were stranded in the Gulf and other countries during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Congress leader Anand Sharma said, “All the officials of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) and the Indian missions abroad should be complimented for the work they have done during the pandemic.”
Sharma also requested the government to take up the issue of the students who have lost an year due to the pandemic.
In reply, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar said, “Our main focus was to bring the stranded Indians back. Once the recovery picks up pace, we will try to arrange for their return.”