Overseas Indians singed by COVID-19; almost 14 lakh return home

Ministry of External Affairs told Lok Sabha that 5,286 Indians have died abroad during the crisis so far

Data provided by the Ministry of External Affairs shows how the coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc on overseas Indians with its devastating impact across continents. Photo: PTI

Over 5,200 Indians died abroad since February this year as COVID-19 pandemic spread worldwide and forced a lockdown. On the positive side, 13,85,670 Indians have returned home from various countries via rescue flights. However, even after six phases of “Vande Bharat” Mission, Indians are still stranded in various countries and are eagerly waiting to be flown back home.

Data provided by the Ministry of External Affairs shows how the Coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc on overseas Indians with its devastating impact across continents. Of the 5,286 Indians who died abroad during February-August this year, the mortal remains of only 1,807 could be brought back. Due to apprehensions over COVID-19 infection spreading and a host of other issues including travel restrictions across the globe, the mortal remains of the other 3,479 could not be brought back.

Data on rescue and sufferings of overseas Indians was provided by Lok Sabha today by V. Muraleedharan in a series of answers to questions from members of parliament.

Vande Bharat

Despite the efforts of Indian missions abroad, the lockdown left little scope of bringing Indians back home till the “Vande Bharat” flights started rescue efforts in various countries. As of September 11, more than 13,85,670 Indians have returned home through these flights, Muraleedharan said in reply to a question from Ajay Kumar Teni, Umesh Jadhav, Manoj Kotak, Mohammed Faizal and M K Kundaria.

Out of these lakhs rescued during this period, as many as 4,26,135 were flown back from the UAE — Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Fujairah, Ras Al Khaimah, and Umm-Al-Quwain. With a large number of Indian expats working in the Gulf region, 86,587 were flown back to India from Kuwait. Similarly, thousands of Indians living in countries like Bahrain, Iran and Iraq have also been evacuated by Air India and private airlines.

From Gulf

As many 2,360 Indians died in Saudi Arabia during the COVID-19 crisis, but the bodies of only 357 of them could be brought back. In the United Arab Emirates, as many as 1,441 Indians lost their lives during the six months from February while the mortal remains of only 705 could be brought back home. As most of the regular flights were cancelled and only special rescue flights were operating, the mortal remains of these people could not be transported to India. Kuwait saw 694 deaths of Indians while the mortal remains of only 356 could be brought back. Bahrain, Oman and Qatar were other countries that reported a significant number of Indian deaths.

From Europe

Data provided by the Ministry of External Affairs shows that 36,648 Indians were flown back from the UK while a large number of Indians have also returned from France, Germany, Italy and Ukraine. The number of Indians flown back from the US stood at 72,391 while 12,472 Indians have returned from Canada, Muraleedharan said in his reply. Significant number of people have also returned from Ethiopia, Japan, Kazakhstan, Egypt and Indonesia.

In Tamil Nadu

The External Affairs Ministry informed Lok Sabha that 85,348 Tamilians returned home from various countries. From May 7, when “Vandhe Bharat” flights were started, the number of Tamil Nadu residents who returned from the UAE alone stands at 66,267. Another 25,000 are waiting to return, according to the reply provided by Muraleedharan to K Navaskani, who represents the Ramanathapuram constituency in the Lok Sabha.

The Ministry of External Affairs today said, around 14,000 residents of Tamil Nadu returned from Saudi Arabia while another 6,500 are waiting to fly back to India. The large number of Indians returning from the Gulf and the other regions also indicates the extent of job losses and the resultant blow to the Indian economy due to decline in repatriation of valuable foreign exchange in the months and years ahead.

Thousands of Tamilians living in Qatar, Bahrain, and Oman have also returned home while many more are waiting to return. Similarly, 11,000 people from Tamil Nadu have returned from Singapore while the number stands at more than 10,000 for the Philippines and over 4,679 for Malaysia.

Most of the Indians returning home were flown in by “Vande Bharat” flights or other special flights and the total number on this count stands at 11,89,077, according to data provided by the Ministry of External Affairs. The number of persons rescued by ships stands at 3,987 and this includes persons brought back from the Maldives and Iran. Interestingly, as many as 1,28,165 Indians returned home by land and this is primarily from neighbouring nations like Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan.

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