by Shobana Muratee
HOUSTON, TX, Tuesday, May 26, 2020 – More than 2,000 people from all over the United States, stranded due to Covid-19, were taken to India from May 7th to the 15th in Phase I of the Vande Bharat Mission.
“We are open 24/7 because we have been getting a lot of emails, calls on our COVID -19 Helpline, several hundred a day,” Aseem Mahajan, India’s Consul General in Houston told reporters. Mahajan spoke in a press briefing via video-call on May 20.
According to Mahajan, Phase II began on May 19 and was to end by May 31, covering 4000 people proportionately from all jurisdictions in the US, going to all destinations in India.
On May 25, Embassy of India, Washington DC, in its press release stated that the Government of India has decided to operate additional Air India non-scheduled commercial flights in the ongoing second phase of operations from the U.S. to various cities in India.
Additional flights scheduled in Phase II would extend the date to June 15, 2020.
In Phase II, Air India’s repatriation flights will take off New York, Chicago and San Francisco and Washington, D.C. to destinations in India that include Bangalore, Hyderabad, Delhi, Chandigarh, Kochi, Ahmedabad, Bhubaneswar adding Chennai and Kolkata in the updated schedule.
The Vande Bharat Mission is tied to the hub-and-spoke model, which requires all the passengers in the America continents be connected to these hubs from where they are flown to fixed destinations in India.
Since the number of seats on the flights would be limited, passengers with the compelling cases such as those facing medical emergencies or requiring return due to bereavement in the family, students, pregnant women, elderly or those facing expiry of visas will be given priority, and identified through an electronic random selection method.
Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) card holders with minor children born to Indian nationals abroad and holding OCI cards, OCI cardholders who wish to come to India on account of family emergencies like death in family, couples where one spouse is an OCI cardholder and the other is an Indian national and they have a permanent residence in India and University students who are OCI cardholders (not legally minors) but whose parents are Indian citizens living in India will be considered.
The release noted that the OCI cardholders falling into one of the categories mentioned above will not require any fresh emergency visa.
Further, it notified that:
The cost of travel from designated airport in the USA to the designated airport in India will be borne by the passenger.
All passengers will be required to undergo medical screening before boarding the flight and only asymptomatic passengers will be allowed to travel.
Before boarding, all passengers shall give an undertaking that they would undergo mandatory quarantine for 14 days as stipulated in the Ministry of Home Affairs order dated 24 May 2020.
All passengers on arrival in India will be medically screened and would have to download and register on Arogya Setu app.
All passengers will have to follow the protocols and procedures including Health Protocols issued by the Government of the USA on departure and by the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Civil Aviation and other concerned authorities of Government of India before, during the journey and on arrival in India.
All passengers will be required to sign an Undertaking which will be collected from them at the airport before boarding the flight.
For information on registration visit with the Embassy/Consulates websites.
Visit https://cgihouston.gov.in/ or https://indianembassyusa.gov.in/reg_indian_nationals &: https://indianembassyusa.gov.in/reg_oci_indian_nationals