India will start bringing stranded persons from abroad May 7, which is supposed to be a massive evacuation process with 14 Indian Navy ships and 500 flights including 30 jumbos of the Indian Air Force. The first operation starts from those Indian citizens working in the Maldives who expressed a willingness to come back. According to officials, around 100 persons, who lost job opportunities in the Maldives due to COVID-19-led economic crisis have registered for coming back.
Dubai Consulate Press release
India’s Dubai Consulate has issued a press release stating that on May 7, two special India flights will be operating to Kerala airports. The Consulate said the Embassy will finalise the list of passengers who confirm all expenses including the 14-day paid quarantine in Kerala. At present two lakh (200,000) people from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are registered to return.
Meanwhile, Kerala Government’s NRI Cell said that they got registration of more than 4.13 lakh persons from the Middle East who wanted to return. Among this 61009 have lost their jobs and 9827 are pregnant.
The Big Challenge
The big challenge is from the Middle East (ME) countries where still the number of persons has not been assessed exactly, though figures are expected to be very high. The officials said that the Indian citizens who wish to come are only those who have lost all chances of job opportunities in the coming days in a post-lockdown scenario. Though there were reports that the numbers may cross more than a lakh, officials point out that till date, no exact figures are available.
Indian Navy ships are basically used to bring people from the Middle East as the number of passengers is expected to be high. Normally, it is 6-7 days of travel time for ships to reach from ME to India. Around 11 million Indians are working in Middle East countries and the majority are from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia. In UAE, around 4 million Indians are working and Saudi Arabia is also having a similar number of Indians. Diplomats feel that the situation in Saudi Arabia is better compared to other countries. Indian Embassies assess that more than three lakh Indians from the Middle East may lose jobs due to the downfall of economic activities, especially the crash of petro-economy. Oman has already issued orders to terminate all non-Omanis from Government jobs. The majority of the Indians are from Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
Most of the Indians expected to be evacuated from abroad are from Kerala and the State Government has been asked to plan a 14-days-of-quarantine-facilities at Kochi seaport and the airports of Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi, Kozhikkode, and Kannur. Mangalore seaport and Chennai seaport is also expected to focus on building the quarantine facility. Mumbai seaport too is expected to be geared to handle the Indians belong to the North Indian States, especially from Uttar Pradesh. After Lucknow became an international airport, many people from Uttar Pradesh started working in the Middle East. One ship is expected to carry a maximum of 4000 persons. Jumbo flights of the Indian Air Force can carry up to a maximum of 800 people.
“Government of India will be facilitating the return of Indian nationals stranded abroad on compelling grounds in a phased manner. The travel would be arranged by aircraft and naval ships. The Standard Operating Protocol (SOP) has been prepared in this regard. Indian Embassies and High Commissions are preparing a list of distressed Indian citizens. This facility would be made available on payment basis. Non-scheduled commercial flights would be arranged for air travel. The travel would begin in a phased manner from May 7,” said Home Ministry in a statement.
Medical screening of passengers would be done before taking the flight. Only asymptomatic passengers would be allowed to travel. During the journey, all these passengers would have to follow the protocols, such as the Health Protocols, issued by the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Civil Aviation, said MHA.
“On reaching the destination, everyone would have to register on the Arogya Setu app. Everyone would be medically screened. After scrutiny, they would be quarantined for 14 days, either in a hospital or in an institutional quarantine on payment-basis, by the concerned State government. COVID test would be done after 14 days and further action would be taken according to health protocols. The Ministries of External Affairs and Civil Aviation would soon share detailed information about it through their websites. State Governments are being advised to make arrangements, including for testing, quarantine, and onward movement of the returning Indians in their respective States,” said Home Ministry.
After scanning numerous news outlets,”Central Govt. wrote quasi a ‘Blank Cheque’ for this problem, crisis.
Three states out of the whole country, Kerala, Maharshtra,… sought to make an issue out of Nonissue for Photo-op and stay relevant”.
I will present the cascading effect on the economies of gulf nations and Kerala with this migration.Also this will be a logistic challenge to our missions in gulf.
1) with 4 lakh returnees, loss of income to Kerala natives is 400,000x Rs 40,000/ month ( minimum )= Rs 1600 Cr. They have to stay back at least for 6 months. AP, Telangana,Tamilnadu , UP and Rajasthan will contribute about 2 lakhs work force. This will have massive impact on spending capacity of Keralites. Local labour force in Kerala is negligible and heavily depend on migration labour for fishing, farming, construction, tourism etc ,as such with labour moving out, Kerala will be worst hit state.
2) Groceries, cafeterias,and MSMEs in gulf countries are run mostly by malayalees. Airport ground staff, municipal workers, security guards, cleaning services, cheffeurs , taxi drivers etc are mostly Malayalees , supplemented by work force from Pakistan. Substantial No work in hospitals and govnt depts. With their absenteeism, gulf economies will be severely hit , as they survive on expats. With massive drop in oil revenue, the return of these people will be delayed indefinitely.
3) Transporting the returnees will cost the country heavily. Further there is chance of corona spreading heavily causing burden to the states.
4) India will lose substantial in foreign exchange as UAE contributes largest inward remittances.
Next state that will be hit hard is Telangana, who have massive presence of labour and maids in the gulf countries especially Saudi Arabia .
Modi once again has shown his meanness by haggling with states on who pays the rail fare to ferry migrants workers back and congress definitely encashed this poor optics by offering to pay the fare. Why Modi is haggling for a few hundred crores? And how much a cash rich party BJP contributed to PMCARES is also a pertinent question.