The Kerala High Court has asked the Central government to assist the return of stranded citizens amid the COVID-19 outbreak if they are facing difficulties in paying for flight tickets. A bench of Chief Justices Shaji P Chaly and MR Anitha issued an interim order on PILs concerning the return and welfare of Indians stranded abroad, particularly Gulf countries.
"...We observe that in case, any expatriate expresses difficulty to pay flight charges and if it is found to be genuine, the embassy and missions of the Government of India may take steps in coordination with other non-government organizations abroad for the transportation of such persons if they have secured necessary registration with the appropriate authorities for their repatriation," the bench said.
On Friday, the court was told that citizens stranded abroad can register to book tickets through the application released by Indian Embassies. For citizens belonging to Kerala, the bench was told that NORKA (Non-Resident Keralites Affairs) registration of non-residents wishing to return to India was also available at the web site. The total number of non-resident Keralites registered as on May 6 stood at 4,52,039.
The Kerala High Court was informed regarding the preparations to evacuate citizens from Gulf countries by the Central and State governments, including the quarantine protocol.
Further, the Bench was apprised that the government is prioritizing the return of migrant workers who have been laid off, short term visa holders faced with the expiry of visas, persons with medical emergency/pregnant women/the elderly and citizens required to return to India due to death of family member and students.
Addressing the concerns expressed by certain petitioners, Central government Counsel Suvin R Menon assured the court that nodal agencies, through Indian embassies, were available to provide any medical assistance needed by the Indians stranded abroad during the crisis. The court, therefore, refrained from passing any orders on this matter as well.
The court added, "... it is quite evident and clear that the Government of India has taken adequate steps to redress the grievances of the expatriates taking into account the prevailing circumstances, in the country, internationally and state-specific.
We are also hopeful and confident that all possible steps would be taken hereafter also to alleviate their grievances, and further that the Centre and the State would work in tandem to achieve the aim of repatriation and the consequential actions."
(With inputs from ANI)
(Image credits: PTI file photo)