Dhaka, May 8 (PTI) The first batch of 168 Indian students, stranded in Bangladesh due to the coronavirus-linked global travel restrictions, left for home on Friday on board a special Air India flight, officials said here.
The evacuation flight carrying the students from here will land in Srinagar directly.
More such flights are also being readied by the authorities to facilitate other Indians as part of the ‘Operation Vande Bharat - A homecoming’, India’s massive repatriation operation to bring home its citizens stranded abroad.
'A chartered Air India aircraft flew 168 Indians to Srinagar of India,' Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport (HSIA) director Group Captain AHM Touhid-ul Ahsan told reporters.
The High Commission of India in Bangladesh launched a dedicated link on its website for the ‘registration for Indians wishing to return to India’.
High Commissioner Riva Ganguly Das interacted with the students at the airport as they prepared to complete the formalities to fly back home.
On the occasion, she posted a video message on Twitter saying as part of the Vande Bharat operation, India’s first flight from Bangladesh carrying stranded students is going to Srinagar directly.
“It (the flight) is carrying only students. The students are enrolled in medical colleges in the country. We were in constant touch with them and their colleges have also taken good care of them.
She further said that as part of a massive exercise by the Indian government, a total of seven flights will be operated from Dhaka.
The Indian envoy also expressed satisfaction that the students are being flown back home ahead of Eid.
The India High Commission, in a statement, said that the first phase of the repatriation of stranded Indians would be done within a week through seven chartered flights, carrying 170 passengers in each trip, to Srinagar on May 8, 12, 13; to Delhi on May 9, 11; to Mumbai on May 10 and to Chennai on May 14.
Taking to Twitter, the Indian mission posted the pictures and videos of the first batch of Indian students at the airport.
“Today, we are preparing to send home our students stranded in Bangladesh. The 1st Air India flight from Dhaka will take them home to Srinagar on 8/5/20. There are more flights being readied as well.
“First Batch of Indian Students have arrived at airport for boarding #AirIndia flight home to India. They are being assisted in completing the formalities by @ihcdhaka,” it said.
The Indian High Commission also thanked the college authorities for the support.
“Indian Students going home, thanks to Operation #VandeBharat speak.
“Thanks college authorities for supporting us all through the lockdown. Now, our students are going home,” the Indian mission said in a series of tweets.
Talking to the Indian mission officials, the students thanked the Indian government for the evacuation flight.
The repatriation began under a special arrangement amidst a ban on aviation in Bangladesh until May 16 as part of a nationwide shutdown to prevent the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
The ban was enforced to block flight operations for the fifth consecutive time to and from all European countries and the nations including India that restricted the entry of Bangladeshis to their territories.
Bangladesh has repatriated over 2,000 of its nationals from India by 14 chartered flights since April 20 while Dhaka has planned to facilitate nine more flights to bring back the rest of stranded people.
One hundred and thirty Bangladeshis returned home from different Indian cities on Friday as part of the repatriation process.
As per the plan, the state-run Biman Bangladesh Airlines will operate the remaining flights from Kolkata on May 10; Mumbai on May 12; Bangalore on May 13 or May 15 and New Delhi on May 14.
Private US-Bangla airlines will operate five special flights from Chennai on May 8, 9, 10, 13 and 14 to bring back the Bangladeshi citizens.
Countries including the US, the UK, Canada, Turkey, Australia, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, Bhutan, Myanmar and other European countries have so far operated several special chartered flights to repatriate their citizens from Bangladesh. PTI AR CPS AKJ CPS