New SOP to bring Indians stranded abroad focuses on needy first

NEW DELHI: Six days after the beginning of lockdown 4.0, the Centre on Sunday came with a new Standard Operating Protocol (SOP) to bring Indians stranded abroad, giving priority to compelling cases in distress, short-term visa holders and persons with medical emergencies.

The compelling cases will include migrant workers or labourers who have been laid off, short term visa holders faced with expiry of visas, and students. Persons with medical emergencies comprises pregnant women, and elderly and those required to return to India due to the death of a family member.

However, the cost of travel as specified by the carrier, will be borne by such travellers, says the 10 point SOP issued by the Union Home Ministry.

All travellers will also be required to give an undertaking that they are making the journey at their own risk, it said.

Such persons will have to 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 (MEA). They will travel to India by non-scheduled commercial flights as allowed by Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA), and ships as allowed by the Department of Military Affairs and Ministry of Shipping.

Based on the registration received, the MEA will prepare a flight or ship wise database of all such travellers, including details such as name, age, gender, mobile phone number, place of residence, place of final destination; and information or RT-PCR test taken and its result.

This database will be shared by MEA with the respective state/Union Territories (UTs) in advance. MEA will designate state or UT wise nodal officers, who will coordinate with the nodal officers designated for this purpose by the respective states and UTs.

The Ministry will display with at least two days’ notice, the schedule (day, place and time of arrival) of the incoming flights, ships, on their online digital platform. Passengers arriving through the land borders will have to undergo the same protocol and only those who are asymptomatic will be enabled to cross the border into India.

The guidelines for international arrivals, including for quarantine arrangements issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) on Sunday will be followed. The government earlier this month facilitated the return of Indians on compelling grounds in a phased manner from May 7 and brought back over 35,000 people.

In order to contain the spread of novel coronavirus pandemic, international air travel was prohibited when national lockdown was imposed on March 24.

Many Indian nationals who had travelled to different countries before the lockdown for various purposes such as employment, studies, internships, tourism a d business and were are stranded there, and the government decided to bring back such people facing distress and desirous of returning to India urgently, the Ministry said.