A day after the Modi government announced that it will be facilitating the return of Indian nationals stranded in foreign countries, the Ministry of Home Affairs has issued the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for the movement of the returnees. In a major relief for Indians stranded abroad, the Centre on Monday announced that their travel will be arranged via aircraft and naval ships in a phased manner.
MHA issues SOPs for movement of Indian Nationals stranded outside the country, as well as, for those persons stranded in India who are desirous to travel abroad for urgent reasons.#COVIDー19 #lockdown #Corona Update pic.twitter.com/CTg6ZNSHIO— Spokesperson, Ministry of Home Affairs (@PIBHomeAffairs) May 5, 2020
According to the SOP, those wishing to return to India must register themselves with the Indian Missions in the country where they are stranded, along with necessary details as prescribed by the Ministry of External Affairs. They will have to travel to India by non-scheduled commercial flights that'll be arranged by the Civil Aviation Ministry (MoCA) and naval ships to be arranged by the Department of Military Affairs (DMA). Only those crew/staff, who have tested negative for COVID-19, will be allowed to operate the flight/ship.
The MHA said priority will be given to compelling cases in distress including migrant workers/labourers who have been laid off, short term visa holders faced with the expiry of visa, persons with medical emergencies/ pregnant women/ elderly, those required to return to India due to death of family member and students. The cost of travel, as specified by the MoCA and DMA will be borne by such travellers.
Based on the registrations received, the MEA will prepare flight/ship wise database of all travellers, including details such as name, age, gender, mobile phone number, place of residence, place of final destination; and information on RT-PCR test taken for COVID-19 infection and its result. This database will be shared by the MEA with the respective States/UTs in advance.
The MEA will designate State/UT wise nodal officers who will coordinate with nodal officers appointed by the respective State/UT. The MEA will display the schedule (day, place and time of arrival) of the incoming flight/ship on their online platform with at least two days notice in advance.
The Centre has said that the Indian High Commissions and embassies are preparing a list of distressed Indian citizens. However, it clarified that this facility is available on payment-basis and will begin in a phased manner on May 7. The Centre added that only asymptomatic people will be allowed to travel after medical scrutiny. It also mandated the installation of Aarogya Setu app and 14-day institutional quarantine on payment basis. State governments have been advised to make arrangements for testing, quarantine and their journey onwards.