New Delhi, May 6 (PTI) The Ministry of External Affairs on Wednesday held a flurry of meetings to fine tune arrangements for evacuation of thousands of stranded Indians from abroad under a mega exercise beginning Thursday.
Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla held a video-conference with chief secretaries of a number of states as part of efforts to ensure proper coordination in the operation christened 'Vande Bharat Mission', sources said.
As per the plan, the government will start sending flights to various countries from Thursday.
They said External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar is personally keeping an eye on execution of the mission and held a series of meetings on the exercise also involving the Home Ministry, the Civil Aviation Ministry and the Health Ministry besides the states.
The Ministry of External Affairs has deputed nodal officers for most of the states for the evacuation exercise.
Additional Secretary in the MEA Vikram Doraiswami has been assigned to coordinate with Kerala while another Additional Secretary Nagma Malik will coordinate with the government of Karnataka.
Senior Indian Foreign Service Officer P Harish has been tasked to coordinate with Andhra Pradesh, Additional Secretary in MEA V Paul has been assigned Punjab and Additional Secretary B Bala Bhaskar will coordinate with Telangana, the sources said.
Over 300,000 Indians in Gulf have registered for evacuation but the government will bring back people like pregnant women, elderly people, students and those having 'compelling reasons' to return such as medical emergencies, expiry of visas and facing the prospect of deportation.
The sources said all laid down guidelines like screening of people at origin countries as well as on arrival will be strictly followed and the states have been told to arrange for mandatory quarantine of the returnees.
The immediate focus of the multi-agency operation will be to bring back Indians from the Gulf, countries in the neighbourhood as well as from the US, the UK and Singapore, the sources said.
Initially, 64 flights will be operated from May 7 to May 13 to bring back around 15,000 Indian nationals stranded abroad. The government has not given any estimate about how many Indians it plans to evacuate.
The Indian Navy has already sent two of its ships to the Maldives for evacuating Indians stranded in the island nation while the Indian air force has kept ready about 30 transport aircraft including C-17 Globemaster and C-130J Super Hercules for any requirement. PTI MPB RT