Back in May 2020, Indian government undertook a massive evacuation programme called Vande Bharat Mission to bring back stranded Indians from various countries across the globe. The evacuation drive was triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic which forced India to shutdown all domestic and international flights in March last year. While domestic flights were gradually allowed to operated in a calibrated manner, international flights still remains banned from operating.
In order to bring back Indians who were stuck elsewhere due to sudden lockdowns, our government planned an evacuation drive called Vande Bharat under which national air carrier Air India was allowed to fly to countries only to bring back Indians.
Till date, 8.9 million nationals have been brought back from abroad, making it the largest of its kind activity in the world. The plan had originally envisaged to bring back more than 1,90,000 Indian nationals. Initially, Air India and its subsidiary Air India Express played a key role in the operations. Afterwards, other air carriers were allowed to take part in the programme.
In a tweet, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said: “Vande Bharat Mission has facilitated repatriation & outbound international of more than 89 lakh people since 6 May 2020. This has been a journey of hope of people who were stranded & one of undaunted commitment for those professionals who made it possible."
While government parallelly activated Air Bubble pacts with 27 countries to ease the travel between countries, there are many countries which haven’t signed bilateral pacts due to the coronavirus fears. Instead, they have allowed limited and special evacuation flights under Vande Bharat.
As India is struggling to fight the second wave, Ministry of Civil Aviation has announced new round of Vande Bharat flights till October 31. The complete roaster of the flights can be checked here.
As per the new roaster, Indian government will be operating flights to countries like Israel, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Italy, among others. All these countries doesn’t have a bilateral pact with India as of now. The schedule starts from June 3 and ends on October 31.