Vande Bharat Mission by the Consulate of India, San Francisco

IMG-20200519-WA0034Vidya Sethuraman
India Post News Service

San Francisco: India launched the second phase of ‘Vande Bharat Mission‘ from the United States on May 19 under which Air India is expected to operate seven flights in all to bring back countrymen from the United States. 

“First AI spl flight from the US brings in 225 Indians from San Francisco to Mumbai. Thank @airindiain @MoCA_GoI and Maharashtra Govt for support and coordination. Great work by CG Sanjay Panda and Team @CGISFO,” External Affair Minister S Jaishankar tweeted. Consul General Panda spoke about this mammoth mission to India Post correspondent.

A total of 7 flights will be a part of the second phase break down. Two flights are scheduled to depart from San Francisco. Over 900 Indian nationals were served during the first phase from San Francisco.  The “compelling reasons” for which registration was done included medical emergencies, return due to bereavement in the family, students, pregnant women and the elderly, and those facing U.S. visa expiry. 

Such Indian nationals in States of Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wyoming, and Territory of Guam would have to register themselves with the Consulate of India, San Francisco where they are stranded, along with necessary details as prescribed by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), said Ambassador Panda. The selection process happens in New Delhi and the person who gets selected, will be notified by the Consulate. The special Air India flights are being operated in absolute compliance with the precautionary guidelines given by the ministry of health and the civil aviation ministry.IMG 20200519 WA0037

Only asymptomatic persons were allowed to travel to India and the cost of travel would have to be borne by the travelers. Before boarding all travelers would have to give an undertaking that they would undergo mandatory quarantine for 14 days. Complete medical screening of passengers was done before boarding the flight in San Francisco and only asymptomatic passengers would be allowed to travel. Once they reach India, they would be required to be screened, register on the Arogya Setu app, and put in mandatory quarantine for fourteen days, screened again before being released to go to their respective homes, added the Consul General. Most of those who took repatriation flights till date praised the government sky high and said that the whole evacuation process is infallibly systematic and smooth.

One of the key pillars of support during this time has been diaspora organisations, said Consul General Panda. We have been working closely with many of them to coordinate assistance. These volunteer groups have proven to be a lifeline for those who have run out of cash and are left to fend for themselves in a foreign land. These groups have organised lodging and access to healthcare, provided food and raised resources by reaching out to diaspora members. CG Panda thanked the Indian-American community for its support. He thanked all his colleagues who have been working 24/7 on this mission and helping the community at best possible ways.

It has been a challenge to deal with and address the demands of so many Indian nationals unable to return home due to the lockdown. Yet, it has been a privilege to have been of some assistance to those in need. No Consulate would have been able to render the services required of it without the tireless effort of the staff working there. Our boys and girls have worked tirelessly through the day and night without a break over the last 20 days. They have been frontline warriors for us, as without their commitment this historic operation would not have been possible. I would also like to extend my deep gratitude to members of the Indian community who have been steadfast in their support to fellow Indians and those in need. Needless to say, a pandemic like this requires the support of each and everyone of us- together we can and shall overcome, said Sumati S Rao, Consul(CIC & Visa), Consulate General of India, SFO.

IMG 20200519 WA0035“Relaxing visa and travel restrictions imposed in wake of covid-19, certain categories of OCI cardholders stranded abroad have been permitted to come to India,” Indian Home Ministry spokesperson tweeted Friday. Those now eligible to return to India include minor children born to Indian nationals abroad and holding OCI cards and OCI cardholders who wish to come to India on account of family emergencies, such as a death in the family, according to a notification issued by the ministry.

Ambassador Sanjay Panda who took charge as the Consul General of India, SFO on November 14, 2018, is being appointed as the Ambassador of India, Turkey and will be leaving the SFO Bay area in June. Ambassador Panda served a massive Indian-origin community estimated to number more than 1.4 million in 11 states of Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wyoming and territory of Guam. During his tenure in SFO, he emphasized the importance of cooperation, communication, and coordination between the US and India in the new global economy, and his office committed to providing great services to all community members. The Consul General went to describe the community as high achieving and is close to its cultural roots. The community at large would like to thank Ambassador Panda for his unwavering support and unrelenting guidance during his tenure in SFO. The community have been organising virtual farewell parties to the Consul General at the time of Pandemic. FIA in association with 25 regional organisations have arranged for a virtual farewell on Thursday May 28.